Are Pine Nuts Tree Nuts?

If you have had a pine tree in your yard, you probably have cursed it for producing  cones that seem to endlessly litter the lawn. These can be a big nuisance, especially if you have to cut your own grass.

However, the cones are actually what contain the pine nut that can be harvested if you are so lucky to have a pine that produces the seed.

Note that the pine nut is actually a seed and not a nut, botanically speaking. However, keep in mind that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), includes pine nuts on their list of “tree nuts” because of their potential of being a food allergen.

The development of a pine nut isn’t an overnight process. Of the approximate 110 species of pines (pinus), only about 20 produce an edible seed.

A pine tree does not start producing cones for about 7 years after it starts to grow. It will take another couple of years for the cone to develop edible seeds.

It takes about a decade before the first pine nut can be harvested. The tree will, however, provide cones and seeds the remainder of its life.

Obviously, this is a nut that most people are not going to have the ability to harvest at home.

In the United States, the best place to harvest pine nuts is in the Great Basin. This area covers nearly all of Nevada and parts of Utah, Idaho, and California.

In most areas, a permit is not required to pick nuts for non-commercial purposes.

As with many other crops, the best time to harvest the seeds is usually September or August. However, the amount of pine nuts a trees in a given area produce can vary greatly from year-to-year.

If you have purchased a bag of pine nuts recently, you probably noticed how expensive they are. The elevated price  is partly due to how difficult it is to harvest the seeds.

Harvesting includes collecting, drying, and extracting the seed from an outer shell, which is often done by hand.

The high price of pine nuts is also attributed to high demand as pine nuts have come into fashion in the culinary world and in home kitchens.

Go back 10 or 15 years and mention pine nuts. The majority of people probably wouldn’t understand what you are talking about.


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