Organic pine nuts are edible kernels extracted from pine cones that grow on specific pine tree species. The quantity of kernels produced by a cone will depend greatly on the altitude at which the tree grows because little or too much humidity will force the tree to abort the pine cone growth and hence the seeds growth. An ideal altitude seems to range between 2000m to 2500m although in certain climates, the pine trees can produce cones at much lower altitudes. The pine seeds or nuts are contained within a hard shell present underneath the pine cone scales. Pine nuts are very difficult to extract and require a full process that can last up to 18 months. The cone needs to reach maturity to be harvested of course, then dried until it fully opens to gather the seeds and the seeds need to be extracted from their own hard shell. This explains why pine nuts can be expensive but also given the fact that they have a short shell life and can become rancid pretty quickly unless they are stored in a dry place.
Health benefits of pine nuts
Pine nuts are not considered nuts but seeds and can sometimes be found under the name of pignon or pignalias. People have been eating pine nuts for centuries and they were once considered as an aphrodisiac in Ancient Greek civilization where they were preserved in honey. They are now included in culinary dishes including salad toppings, sauces, meat but they are also delicious as is. Their health properties lie in their high content of protein which is ideal for people who do not eat meat. They are very rich in good fats including mono-unsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids and linoleic acid (omega 6). Linoleic acid forms part of our cell membranes and should be included in regular diet especially if combined with Omega 3. They also contain Vitamin A, B (1, 3, 5, 6), Vitamin E, fiber, zinc, magnesium, potassium, iron and manganese. They are said to contribute to lowering the bad cholesterol, preventing cardio-vascular disease (thanks to the good fats), reducing the appetite and helping with weight loss. Also, they can contribute to skin and hair health because of the natural occurring fats.
Organic pine nuts should be favored because the pine trees grow on organic crops. Also, some pine nuts can have a bitter flavor which should not happen with organic pine nuts. However, just like for any other organic products, you should always check the origin of the product to ensure that it is truly organic.