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Piñon Nuts: The Manna of the Mountains

This guide to piñon nuts, aka pine nuts, shares information on its history, how to harvest and store them and pine nut recipes.

| July/August 1977

  • Map of areas in the United States where piñon nuts grow.
    Map of areas in the United States where piñon nuts grow.
    Photo by the MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff
  • Piñon nuts can be gathered from four varieties of native pine trees.
    Piñon nuts can be gathered from four varieties of native pine trees.
    Photo by Fotolia/Brenda Somes

  • Map of areas in the United States where piñon nuts grow.
  • Piñon nuts can be gathered from four varieties of native pine trees.

Learn about piñon nuts, aka pine nuts, their history, how to harvest and store them and recipes using these delicious nuts.

Piñon Nut Recipes

Herbed Barley Casserole With Piñon Nuts Recipe
Sierra Stew With Piñon Nuts Recipe

All pine trees bear edible nuts, but only four varieties of the piñon produce nuts large enough to be "worth the harvesting". These piñon trees thrive in mountain deserts and on mesas at elevations of 3,500 to 9,000 feet as far north as Idaho and south Nevada foothills on the west and ranging as far east as the eastern slopes of the rocky Mountains. Florence Blanchard, who wrote this article, recommends that you read Donald Culross Peatie's A Natural History of Western Trees if you want further information about piñon nuts.

Take a lazy fall afternoon in the great U.S. Southwest, add the delightful aroma of a thick pine mountain forest, top with a generous helping of the stickiest sap imaginable . . . and what have you got? Piñon nutting, that's what!

I doubt if anyone really knows just when the earliest human inhabitants settled in the U.S. Southwest. But it's a cinch that those Native Americans would have found it a great deal more difficult to live in this region if the piñon pines hadn't gotten here first.

Piñon nuts burn hotter than any of its numerous evergreen relatives and, as a fireplace fuel, it has no comparison. (Just catch one whiff of the incense-like aroma emanating from a smoldering log and you'll be a piñon convert forever!) The famous hogans (pit houses) of the Southwest were constructed with timbers from this high-desert tree and the Native Americans caulked their baskets and water bottles with its gummy pitch. At least one Indian tribe still dyes wool black with a coloring made from the same resin.

1/7/2018 2:17:55 PM

Keep for up to a year, ours would be long gone before a YEAR. My husband's Dad love to go gathering pinons. Since we now live in OHIO we buy them.

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