Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Pine Nut Gatherers

Pine-nuts have always seemed to be the stuff of delis to me, expensive sachets of delectable morsels that vanish in no time and add interest to salads and seed mixes. I had never even tasted them until I went to Italy as an adult and discovered them as an ingredient, used them in loads of invented salad recipes and tasted them on innumerable versions of torta della nonna in restaurants all over central Italy. Now in South Africa they have returned to my doorstep.

The girls, via some kids’ grapevine that totally passed me by, have discovered the rewards of pine nuts for themselves. They seem to know exactly which type of pine cones to look for and after every riding lesson come back with two or three trophies and then set about harvesting the pine nuts for themselves. I then set about sweeping the loose pine nuts and pine cone bits from the car seat.

In case you also grew up in a deprived country that didn't grow and harvest its own pine nuts, with the help of my children, I have put together an illustrated guide to the intricacies of harvesting them:

This is the right sort of pine cone!

Bash it firmly on the ground, upside down, to loosen the nuts inside.

They look like this, a hard shell encasing the delicious pine kernel.

Sophisticated tools are needed to extract the pine kernels.

For just twenty minutes hard work, you have your own deli sachet of fresh pinoli for free! Now I just need to work on the children to harvest some for me, so I can cook with them. I can see accusations of slave labour being heaped upon me very soon! These were all consumed within minutes for their snack time.


  1. Yummy - funnily enough I also discovered them in Italy when I was au pairing there !

    I love to read your posts, although I am English I grew up in Cape Town (Fish Hoek) and miss it daily - especially in winter !!

    Have a great day !


  2. I remember finding pine cones on the then-untarred road close to my home in Brackenfell, Cape Town many many moons ago. I loved eating the soft sweet nut and haven't seen them for ages. None here in Egypt, that's for sure.

  3. I remember nibbling a few of these as a kid and looking for "the right pine cones"! Great that some things that kids do have not changed over the years...


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