They say you never forget your first time. Its true. For me, with pine nuts it was love at first bite. It is also true that they are insanely expensive, but in this case you definitely get what you pay for.
O.K. why? Well to start with they are intoxicatingly good. But, unlike some other high calorie and expensive foods, I found that I did not tend to overindulge in their buttery goodness. I thought at first it was my amazing will power and self-restraint, but it turns out that the nuts themselves are the secret. Pine nuts contain pinoleic acid, which makes you feel full, how cool is that? So instead of making you gain weight, they can actually help you curb your calorie intake. One study showed that women who ate pine nuts ultimately consumed up to 38% less calories in the course of a day.
Toasted and sprinkled over salad, sautéed into a vegetable sonata, or ground into luscious pesto, they are a delectable, nutrient rich addition to your healthy lifestyle. Pine nuts are high in mono unsaturated fats like oleic acid that helps lower bad cholesterol and increases HDL or “good cholesterol.”
They are gluten free, high in vitamin E (good for your skin and hair,) B complex, and Vitamin K, which protects your heart and helps your blood to clot. They also contain vitamin A and lutein, both of which help support better eye health and vision. And athletes and vegetarians take note: pine nuts are a good source of Iron and particularly high in protein – the pignolia of the Mediterranean boast more than twice the protein of other nuts including other pine nuts.
They are called nuts probably because of their consistency, but pine nuts are not actually nuts at all, they are seeds. It takes about three years from when a pine tree first blooms, until it forms the cone that houses the seed. Removing the pine nut from the cone is a complicated process and once removed the seed must then be freed from a secondary shell. If you are not a squirrel, (and probably even if you are) it is a painstaking process and explains the high price.
Luckily for you, you can just buy pine nuts already shelled and enjoy them plain, roasted, in salads, pesto, or even desserts.
Note that shelled pine nuts have a relatively short shelf life and should be refrigerated in a jar or other airtight container.
There are several varieties of pine nuts and one in particular Pinus armandii, or Chinese white pine that is known for an allergic reaction called “Pine Mouth” which is a harmless but annoying effect that can trigger altered taste perception several hours or even days later. Some other more severe allergic reactions have also been reported including anaphylactic manifestations in people with pine nut allergies so caution is recommended.