Pine nuts make a healthy, delicious treat, especially if you harvest them yourself. While harvesting pine nuts takes time and effort, it’s easier once you know the right technique. By picking and drying the pine cones and shelling the nuts you’ll have plenty of pine nuts. Once you’ve harvested your pine nuts, you’ll be able to store them, eat them raw, or use them in a variety of dishes!
Step 1: Finding Pine Cones for Harvesting
All pine trees produce nuts that you can eat. However, some species have much smaller nuts. It is worth it to scout out the species with larger nuts and save yourself some trouble with shelling.
If you are serious about harvesting pine nuts, you should scout out some pine trees in early summer. Pine nuts ripen in late summer or fall. Pine cones are usually ready for harvesting from August to September, depending on where you live.
How will you know that the pine cones are ready to be harvested?
Take a look at the tree. If some pine cones are open and some are still closed, then it is harvest time! The seeds probably haven’t formed if all the pine cones are still closed. If all pine cones have opened, then critters have probably already eaten all of the seeds.
Step 2: Gather Your Pine Cones
It is recommended that you use GLOVES when picking pine cones. Gather the pine cones which are still closed or barely open. Twist the pine cone to get it off the tree. Try not to break any branches. You don’t want to damage the tree. Put your pine cones into a bag and bring them home.
Step 3: Getting the Pine Nuts Out of the Cones
Two things will make a closed pine cone open up: dryness and heat.
The easiest way to get the pine nuts out of the cone is to lay the pine cones out and let them dry out on their own. It will take a few weeks, but the pine cones will open up. Then you can tap the pine cones, and the seeds will fall out.
If you don’t feel like waiting 3 weeks for your pine cones to open up, you can use heat. Lay the pine cones flat and roast them in the oven (or over a fire). Let the pine cones cool down. Then tap them, and the pine nuts will start to fall out. Don’t try to microwave pine cones. They’ll start to smoke and ruin your microwave!
Step 4: Sorting the Pine Nuts
Even if you harvest your pine nuts on time, there will still be a lot of bad pine nuts. It is frustrating to shell the nuts only to find out it is bad.
Here is a simple way to sort the bad pine nuts from the good ones.
– Put your pine nuts in a big bowl of water.
– The bad pine nuts will float to the top.
– The good pine nuts will sink to the bottom!
Some will still be good, but I’d rather toss some good pine nuts than waste a lot of time shelling bad pine nuts. If you don’t want to toss the bad pine nuts, you can use them to make pine nut vodka. In Russian, it is called kedrovka.
Step 5: Shelling the Pine Nuts
As mentioned before, shelling pine nuts is a big hassle, and there isn’t a fast way to do it at home.
Most people shell pine nuts with their teeth, much like how you’d eat a sunflower seed in the shell. That makes them great for snacking. Or, you can use your fingers to crack the pine nut shell.
Storing and Eating Pine Nuts
– Do not store pine nuts at room temperature. Because of their high oil content, pine nuts spoil when they’re left out for more than several hours. Unless you’re eating or cooking with your pine nuts right away, refrigerate or freeze them immediately after shelling them.
– Keep shelled pine nuts in the fridge if you’ll use them within a month. Place your pine nuts in an airtight container and store them in the fridge if you plan to eat them within a few weeks.
– Freeze pine nuts for 3-6 months if you want to store them longer. Pine nuts stay preserved for several months longer while they’re frozen.
– Eat the pine nuts raw or cooked. Depending on your preference, you can eat pine nuts from the container or after preparing them.
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Video source: Noal Farm