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?
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: