Pine nuts are obtained by breaking the hard-shelled nuts that grow on pinecones of pine trees. In Turkey, it is known as nuts for stuffed vegetables in olive oil as well. Pine nut trees mainly grow in all Mediterranean countries as well as some countries in Asia and America where temperate climate prevails. Pine nut tree can grow up to 25 meters tall and its crown looks like an umbrella. Pine nuts can only be derived from the cones of the trees, which are at least 20 years old. The trees have the capacity of producing pine nuts until the age of 80. They give fruits every year and are harvested between January and March. Collected pinecones are dried under the sun to allow its layers to separate and shelled nuts to fall out. After that, they are soaked in water to the edible nuts separate from the hard shell. Finally, the shells are cracked, the nuts are removed out and left under the sun for drying.
In Turkey, pine nut trees grow in different places but mainly in Aydin, Mugla, Bergama and Ayvalık. Kozak type of pine nuts grown in the Kozak region of Bergama is amongst the highest quality pine nuts of the world with its large and plump structure.
Pine nuts have a sweet and buttery taste with fruity, nutty, pine notes and a crunchy texture. Especially when toasted, it gets crunchier. It can be added to dishes such as salads, pasta, fish and soup in order to enrich the flavor and texture.
In Turkish cuisine, pine nuts are mostly used in stuffed vegetables in olive oil, semolina halva, pilaf and on top of desserts. It adds flavor to hummus when pan roasted in butter or olive oil and poured over it.
It is one of the main ingredients of the basic pasta sauce pesto in Italian cuisine. When roasted and added to salads, it brings richness and crispness in terms of flavor and texture.
It works very well with fish and meat. In European cuisines, it is widely used in cakes and cookies, sprinkled on top of tarts.
Because of the high oil content, pine nuts can easily grow a heavy scent if not preserved in the right condition. To avoid it, keep them in the refrigerator in an airtight glass container. In this way, it can retain its freshness for up to 3 months. If you put it in the freezer in small plastic bags, you can extend the shelf life up to 9 months.
Sprinkle some roasted pine nuts over your steamed or sautéed vegetables. It will bring a unique flavor to your dish.
Roasted pine nuts are perfect for creating special flavor nuances when sprinkled over pasta.