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pine kernel


Synonym: pine nut; botanical name: Pinus pinea



The pine is probably native to Asia Minor. The tree cannot stand frost and grows only in regions with a mild climate. Thus the pine is widespread along the entire Mediterranean coast and is commercially grown in some countries, e.g. Italy and Spain. However, pine kernels are also harvested in other countries such as China, Turkey and France.


Harvest of the pine kernels begins in October and continues until the end of March. The kernels are sold throughout the year. In November and December entire pine cones are occasionally on offer.

Giant pine nuts from Brazil, up to 5 cm, are regarded as a specialty. They are sold in small amounts from June to October.

Appearance, taste, characteristics

Pine kernels are the seeds of the southern European pine tree and are found in large numbers in the woody scales of the pine cones.

The cones are approximately 8–15 cm long and slightly tapered. They require 3 years from bloom to maturity. The scales of immature cones lie close together; in the fourth year they spread apart and release the pine nuts.

The nuts are dried and removed by machine from their hard, thick, brown shell, then blanched and peeled.

The peeled seed is 1–2 cm long, thin, and white-beige. It is soft and has a pleasantly almond-like, sweet-sour taste that is accompanied by a fine note, slightly resembling resin.


Pine kernels have a high fat content, making them rich in calories. Thanks to a favourable composition of fatty acids, characterized by a large portion of unsaturated fatty acids, when eaten in moderate amounts (one handful a day) they have a positive effect on health.

In addition, pine kernels have high contents of vitamin B1, vitamin E, magnesium and niacin. They are also rich in potassium and iron.

100 g contain:

Pine kernels
Energy (kcal)
Water (g)
Protein (g)
Fat (g)
Carbohydrates (g) (g)
Fibre (g)
Vitamin A (RE) (µg)
Vitamin E (mg)
Vitamin B1 (mg)
Vitamin B2 (mg)
Niacin (mg)
Vitamin B6 (mg)
Folic acid (µg)
Vitamin C (mg)
Potassium (mg)
Sodium (mg)
Calcium (mg)
Magnesium (mg)
Phosphorous (mg)
Iron (mg)
Saturated fatty acids
Monounsaturated fatty acids (g)
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (g)

Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

When stored correctly, unpeeled pine nuts can be kept for many months. Peeled seeds, on the other hand, should not be kept for more than 2–3 months. Storage should always be dry, airy and above all cool. Warmth is detrimental because, owing to their high fat content, the kernels quickly become rancid.

Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

Pine kernels are usually eaten raw as a snack or used whole, finely chopped or grated to flavour and decorate cakes and baked goods. They are also good with muesli and are a suitable ingredient in spicy dishes. When they are roasted they develop their aroma to the full.

Particularly in Mediterranean and Far Eastern cuisines, pine kernels are of great importance. Spicy meat and fish dishes, soups and salads are enriched with these seeds. They are also used as an ingredient in cold and warm sauces. For instance, they are an important component of the Italian pesto, a specialty sauce made of olive oil, herbs, garlic and nuts. Pine kernels are also popular in stuffed grape leaves, in cheese preparations and sweet dishes, or combined with fruit.

Whole pine cones can be bought in November and December. When the cone is stored warm and dry, it spreads its woody scales and opens up. When it does this it gives off a pleasant resinous scent. To get to the light-coloured seeds one must loosen the nuts out of the cone and break open their hard shell.





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