Free Food: How to Harvest Wild Pine Nuts (Video)

Most the pine nuts you buy in the store come from China, are pasteurized and cost a small fortune. Don’t you wish you could pick your own and eat them fresh for free?

$2 an ounce! That’s $32 a pound!

You can! Anywhere there are pine trees there are pine nuts, although there are only about 20 species of pine that produce seeds large enough to be worth harvesting. In North America, these are mostly in the Southwest and along the Pacific Ocean.

The three most popular North American species are the Colorado Pinon:

The Single-Leaf Pinon:


And the Mexican Pinon:

There are several methods for removing pine nuts from pine cones. In a pinch, a simple banging against a rock will do:

Or, for mass pine nut collection, you can shake the pine cones off the tree into a tarp like this guy:

But beware, the Navajo say it’s bad luck to shake pine cones off the tree.

Pine nut forager Hank Shaw recommends collecting them in early September, before the rodents do. They’ll still be green, but they’ll open in about three weeks. Here are his photos:






6 responses to “Free Food: How to Harvest Wild Pine Nuts (Video)”

  1. Pamela Melcher Avatar
    Pamela Melcher

    Interesting. Lots of good info. Thank you. One thing confused me: in the second video, the guy first says that the nuts that float are bad, and then he goes on to show us how to process and use the ones that float….. so some that float are bad, and some that float are good, and he does not tell us how to discern between those 2 groups. Does anyone here know? Thank you.

  2. Anneke Avatar

    Could you list the 20 species that are worthwhile picking? Are there any pine species with toxic seeds

    1. mathieu Avatar

      I would also like to know which species. I was told we cannot harvest pine nuts from our pines because the pine cones are not big enough – can it be harvested from the following: pinus strobus, pinus banksiana, pinus resinosa? thank you

  3. brenda Avatar

    way to be on top of your postings.
    if you are not going to keep up with it, why post it?

  4. Lynda Avatar

    In Nevada, which is covered with pinon pines, especially the northern area, there is actually a Pine Nut season declared for open harvest on public land and in our National/State forest areas.

  5. P Myre Avatar
    P Myre

    OK before everyone rushes into their local national park…I just checked and it looks like our National Parks have varying policies on harvesting/collecting fruits and nuts that will be for personal use only. Best to check specific location. I could make a very bad joke here about the flip-flop wearing, non-water-bottle-carrying nuts I have seen hiking ‘way below the Grand Canyon rim but I will stop here.