February 07, 2011

Pine nuts

Pine nut
Pine nuts are known as Sanober in the Arab world. It is familiar in various kinds of Arabic Cuisines. They are used with Meat,Fish, Salad and other Vegetable dishes such as fillings for Kibba, in Confectionary used as filings, garnishing for different deserts and also baked with breads. More details as follows..........

Shelled Korean pine nuts (Pinus koraiensis)
Pine nuts are the edible seeds of pines (family Pinaceae, genus Pinus). About 20 species of pine produce seeds large enough to be worth harvesting; in other pines the seeds are also edible, but are too small to be of great value as a human food.

Species and geographic spread

Stone Pine cone with pine nuts — note two nuts under each cone scale

In Europe, pine nuts come from the Stone Pine (Pinus pinea), which has been cultivated for its nuts for over 6,000 years, and harvested from wild trees for far longer. The Swiss Pine (Pinus cembra) is also used to a very small extent.
In Asia, two species are widely harvested, Korean Pine (Pinus koraiensis) in northeast Asia (the most important species in international trade), and Chilgoza Pine (Pinus gerardiana) in the western Himalaya. Four other species, Siberian Pine (Pinus sibirica), Siberian Dwarf Pine (Pinus pumila), Chinese White Pine (Pinus armandii) and Lacebark Pine (Pinus bungeana), are also used to a lesser extent. Afghanistan is an important source of pine nuts.
In North America, the main species are three of the pinyon pines, Colorado Pinyon (Pinus edulis), Single-leaf Pinyon (Pinus monophylla), and Mexican Pinyon (Pinus cembroides). The other eight pinyon species are used to a small extent, as are Gray Pine (Pinus sabineana), Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana), Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana) and Parry Pinyon (Pinus quadrifolia).

In the United States, pine nuts are mainly harvested by American Indians, particularly the Uto-Aztecan: Shoshone, Paiute and Hopi, and Washoe tribes.[ Certain treaties negotiated by tribes and laws in Nevada guarantee Native Americans' right to harvest pine nuts.
Pollination and seed development
The pinyon pine nut (seed) species will take 18 months to complete its maturity, however, in order to reach full maturity the environmental conditions must be favorable for the tree and its fruit.

Development begins in early spring with pollinization. A tiny cone (small marble size) will form from mid spring to the end of summer in which the premature cone will then become and remain dormant (cessation of growth) until the following spring. The cone will then commence growth until it reaches maturity near or at the end of summer.
Mature fruit and harvesting process
The mature pinyon pine cone containing fruit is ready to harvest ten days before the green cone begins to open. A cone is harvested by placing it in a burlap bag and exposing it to a heat source such as the sun to begin the drying process. It takes approximately 20 days from that time until the cone fully opens. Once it is fully open and dry the fruit (seed) can be easily extracted in various ways. The most common and practical extracting method used is, to repeatedly hit the cone(s) in the burlap bag against a rough surface in order to cause it to shatter, leaving just the job of separating by hand the seed from the residue within the bag.
Another option for harvesting is to wait until the cone opens on the tree (as it naturally will) and harvest the cone from the pinyon pine, followed by the extracting process mentioned above.
Fallen seed can also be gathered beneath the trees. 

Ecology and status
In the United States, millions of hectares of productive pinyon pine woods have been destroyed due to conversion of lands, and in China, destructive harvesting techniques (such as breaking off whole branches to harvest the cones) and the removal of trees for timber have led to losses in production capacity.
Elevation and pinecone production
In ecology, in regards to that of the pinyon pine tree, the elevation of the tree is an important determinant as to the quantity of pinecone production, and therefore, on the large part, will determine the amount of pine nuts the tree will yield.
Pinyon pine tree cone production is most commonly found at an elevation between 6,000 to 8,500 feet and ideally at 7,000 feet. This is due in fact that increased temperatures at elevations lower than 6,000 feet, during the spring, will dry up humidity and moisture contents (particularly snow packs), that provide for the tree throughout the spring and summer, causing little nourishment for pinecone maturity. Although there are several other environmental factors such as clouds and rain that determine the conditions of the ecology, without this nourishment (water) the cones are more susceptible to perishing and the tree will tend to abort the cone(s).
There are certain topographical areas found in lower elevations, such as shaded canyons, where the humidity remains constant throughout the spring and summer allowing the pinecones to fully mature and produce seed.
At elevations above 8,500 feet the temperature will substantially drop, drastically affecting the state of the dormant cone. During the winter, the change in temperature, along with gusty winds, with their severity, can cause the cone(s) to be susceptible to freezing that damages the fruit permanently, in which case, growth is stunted and the cone withers away.
Physical characteristics

European Stone Pine nuts (Pinus pinea) to be compared with the picture below
Pine nuts contain, depending on species, between 10–34% protein, with Stone Pine having the highest content. They are also a source of dietary fiber. When first extracted from the pine cone, they are covered with a hard shell (seed coat), thin in some species, thick in others. The nutrition is storembryo (sporophyte) in the centre. Although a nut in the culinary sense, in the botanical sense pine nuts are seeds; being a gymnosperm, they lack a carpel (fruit) outside.
The shell must be removed before the pine nut can be eaten. Unshelled pine nuts have a long shelf life if kept dry and refrigerated (at –5 to +2 °C); shelled nuts (and unshelled nuts in warm conditions) deteriorate rapidly, becoming rancid within a few weeks or even days in warm humid conditions. Pine nuts are commercially available in shelled form, but due to poor storage, can have poor flavour and may be already rancid at the time of purchase. Consequently, pine nuts are often frozen to preserve their flavour.
European pine nuts may be distinguished from Asian ones by their greater length in comparison to girth; Asian pine nuts are stubbier, shaped somewhat like long kernels of corn. The American Pinyon nuts are known for their large size and ease of shelling. In the United States, P. edulis, the hard shell or New Mexico and Colorado became a sought after pine nut species due to the Trading Post System and the Navajo people who used the nuts as a means of commerce. The Italian pine nut, (P. pinea) was brought to the United States by immigrants and became a favored treat along the East Coast until the early 1930s when bumper crops of American Pine nuts were readily available at low prices.

Korean Pine (Pinus koraiensis) pine nuts - unshelled, and shell, above; shelled, below
Culinary uses
Pine nuts have been eaten in Europe and Asia since the Paleolithic period. They are frequently added to meat, fish, salads and vegetable dishes or baked into bread. In Italian they are called pinoli or pignoli and are an essential component of Italian pesto sauce. The pignoli cookie, an Italian specialty confection, is made of almond flour formed into a dough similar to that of a macaroon and then topped with pine nuts. In Spain, a sweet is made of small marzipan balls covered with pine nuts, painted with egg and lightly cooked. Pine nuts are also featured in the salade landaise of southwestern France. Pine nut coffee, known as piñón (Spanish for pine nut), is a speciality found in the southwest United States, especially New Mexico, and is typically a dark roast coffee having a deep, nutty flavour; roasted and lightly salted pine nuts can often be found sold on the side of the road in cities across New Mexico to be used for this purpose. The Nevada Pine Nut, or Great Basin pine nut has a sweet fruity flavor and is relished for its large size, sweet flavor and ease of peeling. Pine nuts are also used in chocolates and desserts such as baklava. It is also a widely used ingredient in Middle Eastern cuisine, reflected in a diverse range of dishes such as kibbeh, sambusek, ladies' fingers and many others.
Throughout Europe and Middle East the pine nuts used are from Pinus pinea (Stone Pine). They are easily distinguished from the Asian pine nuts by their more slender shape and more homogeneous flesh. Due to the lower price, Asian pine nuts are also often used, especially in cheaper preparations. Pine nuts contain thiamine, vitamin B1 and protein. One study indicates that pine nut oil may suppress appetite.
Risks of eating pine nuts
A small minority of pine nuts can cause taste disturbances, developing 1–3 days after consumption and lasting for days or weeks. A bitter, metallic taste is described. Though very unpleasant, there are no lasting effects. This phenomenon was first described in a scientific paper in 2001. Some publications have made reference to this phenomenon as "pine mouth". This is a relatively new phenomenon which might be caused by the nuts spoiling and having gone rancid. It has been also hypothesized that this bitter side effect is caused by an allergy that some people may have to pine nuts, but this does not explain the recent appearance of this syndrome. Another theory attributes the phenomenon to nuts imported from China. It has been hypothesized that the nut trees are absorbing something and passing it on to the nuts, or the nuts themselves are being treated with something before packaging. Metallic taste disturbance, known as metallogeusia, is reported 1–3 days after ingestion, being worse on day 2 and lasting for up to 2 weeks. Cases were self-limited and resolve without treatment.

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