Pine Nut Harvesting – When And How To Harvest Pine Nuts

Basket Full Of Pine Nuts
harvest pine nuts
(Image credit: longtaildog)

Pine nuts are very expensive when you buy them at the grocery store, but they are hardly new. People have been pine nut harvesting for centuries. You can grow your own by planting a pinyon pine and harvesting pine nuts from pine cones. Read on for more information on when and how to harvest pine nuts.

Where Do Pine Nuts Come From?

Many people eat pine nuts but ask: Where do pine nuts come from? Pine nuts come from pinyon pine trees. These pines are native to the United States, although other pines with edible pine nuts are native to Europe and Asia, like the European stone pine and the Asian Korean pine. Pine nuts are the smallest and the fanciest of all nuts. The taste is sweet and subtle. If you have a pinyon pine tree in your backyard, you can start harvesting pine nuts from pine cones too.

When and How to Harvest Pine Nuts

Pine nuts ripen in late summer or fall, and this is when you start pine nut harvesting. First, you’ll need pine trees with low branches containing both opened and unopened pine cones on them. The opened pine cones indicate that the pine nuts are ripe, but you don’t want these cones when it comes to pine nut harvesting; they have already released their nuts. 

The nuts were, most likely, eaten up by animals and birds. Instead, when you are harvesting pine nuts from pine cones, you want to gather closed cones. Twist them off the branches without getting the sap on your hands since it is hard to clean off. Fill the bag with cones, then take them home with you. P

ine cones are built of overlapping scales and the pine nuts are located inside each scale. The scales open when exposed to heat or dryness. If you leave your bag in a warm, dry, sunny location, the cones will release the nuts on their own. This saves time when you are harvesting pine nuts from pine cones. 

Wait a few days or even a week, then shake the bag vigorously. The pine cones should be open and the pine nuts slide out of them. Collect them, then remove the shells on each with your fingers.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.