April 16, 2008

Wiki Wednesday: Pine Nuts

Today's Wiki Wednesday Wikipedia reference is for "Pine nuts."

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 value as a human food. [1] [2] [3]

Pine nuts are used in the Lebanese cooking I grew up with, most memorably for me in Kibbeh (a ground meat and bulghur wheat dish that bears some resemblance to meatloaf, except for its raw version Kibbeh Nayye, which is like raw meatloaf) and Djaj mah Ruz (Chicken and Rice). If you've never had those, you're most likely to have had pine nuts in Italian recipes, crushed into pesto, for example.

The Italians call them "pinoli" or "pignoli" and the Spanish have the word "piñón." To me they were always snawbar (pronounced snao-bahrd). But here in the U.S. of A. we call them "pine nuts."

I don't think most people are familiar with pine nuts, or the fact that pine trees have edible seeds. I found it interesting that I came across a reference to pine nuts in an article (Foods People Won't Eat Because of the Names by Robert T. Morris, M.D. January 1918) in the NYT archives:

During the last five years the peanut has been moved up to a point where it will soon become a rival of the pine nuts and Asiatic chestnuts for substantial food purposes.

Ninety years later, I think it's safe to say that Americans are more familiar with the flavor of peanuts than they are with pine nuts and Asiatic chestnuts. Westerners have been eating those tree nuts for much longer, but don't expect a Reese's Pine Nut Butter Cup any time soon. Maybe in another hundred years.

I love the flavor or lightly roasted pine nuts. It's (no surprise here) nutty and rich. The nuts aren't really crunchy, but they do have a slight crispness and a smoothness to them. Once toasted, you might use them in places you'd see sunflower seeds, in a salad for example.

I learned a couple of odd things from the Wiki page. First, that some pine nuts have been blamed with throwing people's taste buds out of whack (this applies to Chinese varieties, specifically). And also that some believe pine nut oil to have appetite suppressant qualities. Mmm, well, I know I'm always satisfied after a mozzarella, pesto and tomato sandwich. But I don't think that's what they meant.

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Posted by James at April 16, 2008 2:04 PM
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I love pignoli!

Here's a tasty and easy recipe I make often (we just had this the other night):

Filet of Sole with Pine Nuts and Chives

Posted by: Patti M. at April 16, 2008 3:53 PM

Pine nuts are awesome...I also seem to remember them showing up in lebanese meat pies...

Posted by: Bull at April 18, 2008 8:24 AM

Pine nuts showed up in a sweet after-dinner tea-like drink we were brought at a Korean restaurant. Deee-lish.

Posted by: Patti M. at April 18, 2008 10:26 AM

Mmmmmmm. Lebanese meat pies.

Posted by: briwei at April 18, 2008 11:39 AM

I saw a pinenut drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic's...

...his hair was perfect...

Posted by: Bull at April 18, 2008 5:16 PM

And pesto. I use them when I harvest basil and make my pesto.

Posted by: Bob McCown at April 23, 2008 9:04 AM

Fresh pesto--yum!

Bob, what time is dinner? I'll be over.

Posted by: Patti M. at April 23, 2008 9:07 AM

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