Today we are dealing with a crop that cannot be called a crop itself. The pine nuts are not cultivated, they are harvested from the pine forests.
Let’s say that it could be called a forest product rather than an agricultural product, since it does not require soil preparation or development work. Let’s get to know the stone pine a little better.
STONE PINE OR ROYAL PINE: EXCLUSIVELY MEDITERRANEAN AND SPANISH
There is no specific origin for Pinus pinea L. What is known for sure is that its origin is Mediterranean. Today it is found in practically the entire Mediterranean coastline and reaches as far as China.
Despite its wide distribution, Spain is the country with the largest stone pine forest area in the world and we are the first pine nut producers highlighting areas such as Andalusia or Castilla y León.
THE STONE PINE AND ITS MULTIPLE VALUES
Normally, the value of a crop is found in one of its parts, be it the fruit, the wood or other characteristics. In the case of Pinus pinea L. , the economic value of this specimen is innumerable.
Since the Etruscans, Romans and Arabs it has been an important element of progress from the food and timber point of view to be used in buildings (ships among them).
The pinions are highly valued and have been part of many desserts and dishes from many European places, being part of the human diet for millennia.
It is the resource that is most used today and for which it has been so exploited. Other uses have been wood, resin or bark (for the extraction of tannins). In addition, the husk of pineapples is being used as a biofuel .
The ornamental value is also remarkable. One of the things that you can look at if you travel to Italy (Rome in my case), are the majestic and immense pine trees that you can find forming part of the ornamental tree mass of the cities.
In fact, it is commonly known in English as Italian stone pine . There must be a reason.
LET’S LOOK AT THE EDAPHOCLIMATIC NEEDS OF THE STONE PINE
CLIMATOLOGY AND TEMPERATURES
It is a very rustic tree, being able to withstand drought and high temperatures above 40ºC. You might think then that the cold is its weak point. Nothing is further from reality. It is a tree of extremes . It supports temperatures of up to -20ºC although with -10ºC it can already begin to suffer some damage (depending on the age of the tree). This has allowed it to spread over wide regions with very different climates (continental and coastal), as well as altitudes between 0 and 1200 m above sea level.
Another variable in which the stone pine shows its rusticity is in the soil. Their preferences are acidic and sandy soils. However, it tolerates clay and limestone quite well, so the wide supported range of soils of this species allows its distribution over a multitude of edaphological landscapes. As for nutrition, it does not need large doses of organic matter, making it ideal for poor soils. The only thing that it does not tolerate well are soils that are easily puddled.
IMPORTANT ASPECTS IN PINE NUT PRODUCTION
- The entry into production of a Pinus pinea L. is one of the latest known, between 20 and 30 years nothing more and nothing less.
- Flowering occurs in late spring and early summer. The pine nut will be mature 3 years after flowering.
PINE NUTS AND THEIR NUTRITIONAL IMPORTANCE
Pine nuts have been and are traditionally consumed mainly in countries and regions close to the Mediterranean coast, although it must be said that in recent years, a special interest has been aroused by countries that were not familiar with it.
The reasons are simple and purely nutritional:
Pine nuts are fruits very rich in oils (40-45%), the main ones being mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids such as linoleic.
The protein content is also very high (around 30-32%) which makes this dried fruit a highly nutritious and healthy element.
Pine nuts are eaten roasted or natural. In the latter case, they should be eaten in a relatively short time after harvesting due to their high content of oils that easily rancid.