Are you looking to harvest pine nuts? Well here are some tips on how to harvest them so you have all you need to grow some beautiful and healthy pine trees.
First, you need to know when the ideal time to start looking, and ideally, depending on where you are, August is a good time to start. While that may seem a bit early, it’s actually the perfect time to get the process started. You’ll be looking for trees with green pine cones on them. And we’re not talking about just a few. You want there to be a lot. Then you know this tree will be worth investing your time and effort with. Just because you find one doesn’t mean the surrounding area will follow suit. There are a lot of varying factors, so when you find a tree that has a large number of green pine cones, be sure to mark down its location so you can circle back later.
Now that you know where the pine cones are, you need to wait until Labor Day or so. Again, this seems early, but you want to time your return out so you beat pesky rodents and squirrels to these tasty nuts. If you wait too long, you may return to a tree with no nuts, which defeats the whole purpose behind what you’re try
ing to do. A lot of studies show that squirrels and chipmunks in particular often wait nearby, so you want to strike while the iron’s hot, because those nuts disappear quickly once the cones open. Waiting until October is not smart, as you run the risk of them all being swept away. Then you’ll be behind the eight ball, and you’ll have a shortage of pine nut supply. If you’re going to do this, you have to make sure you do it right.
Once you arrive and you’re ready to gather the pine nuts so you have some healthy pine trees, you first have to make sure you have gardening gloves on. While these run in varying qualities, a cheap pair is fine for this task. Breaking the break for gloves seems unwise, and as long as these gloves protect you, you can go with a less expensive pair. Once that’s situated, know that this will likely be the one and only time you use the gloves, because the pine cones are covered in a sticky resin that gets on absolutely everything. With that in mind, you probably don’t want to wear your Sunday best either, as shirts and pants may see the brunt of the resin as well. The good news? The resin smells wonderful, so while you work, you’ll have a sweet aroma to keep you company. You’ll want to have a paper bag nearby so you can put each cone in one. Sure, you’ll run through a lot of bags, but you want to make sure the harvesting is done the right way.
Once you transfer the cones home, you have to make sure you continue to be diligent in doing your work the right way, which means laying the green cones out in a shallow and wide container. Make sure you stack no more than two cones deep. Stacking too deep creates mold, which is obviously not ideal. Again, they will smell good as you wait. Eventually, the cones will begin to open. It takes about three weeks for these cones to open, and once they do, you can pick out all of the nuts from inside. Take note that you’ll get a little pitch on your hands, but it’s alright because it comes off with oil. If you want to prevent the cleanup, continue to wear a new set of gloves as you remove the pine nuts.
The next fact can be downright depressing. Not all nuts are good nuts, and in fact, sometimes less than half are salvageable. Even so, you have to make sure to move forward with quality nuts only to ensure you’re harvesting healthy pine trees that will ultimately have the best chance of thriving for many years to come. The good news? It’s easy to tell which nuts stay and which nuts are garbage. Put all of your nuts in a bucket of water. If they float, most (approximately 85 percent) are no good. If they sink, it’s safe to proceed with them.
Did you know that those that float can serve another purpose? You can mash up the discards and fill up a mason jar with them, and cover them in vodka. Seal it up good and wait a few months. Once you open it, you will have a brand new supply of pine nut bourbon, which is delicious!
One thing to notice. The darker the shell, the better the nut usually is.
An interesting fact about these pine nuts is that sometimes they can take as long as three years to mature. Most pine nuts take around 18 months, and the bud in the beginning of the spring and grow until the end of the summer. The cones then become dormant during fall and winter.
According to an article in the Huffington Post, Pine nuts prefer the northern hemisphere. “While all pine trees will produce a pine nut, there are only about 18 species that produce nuts large enough to be of value as human food,” according to the article. “These trees are found in Asia, Europe and North America.”
Now that you’ve learned more about pine cones and pine nuts, you can now prepare to harvest a bunch. It’s never too early to start scouting trees. Even though the whole process takes quite a while, the end result truly make the tumultuous journey worth it!