[permaculture] Perennial edible Oilseeds- more nut pines

Michael Pilarski friendsofthetrees at yahoo.com
Wed Mar 16 05:35:04 EDT 2011

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Hello Loren, et al


Pine Nuts for Food and Edible Oil

A brief commentary by Michael Pilarski


A few words on pine nut oil. Pine nuts could be considered a
super food.  Certainly the Russians
do.  It is the holy grail food for
the Anastasia movement people.


All pine nut seeds are edible and good (that I have ever
heard about or tried). Some of them are just too tiny and fiddly to rely on as
a food source, such as my local Ponderosa pine. Worldwide there are 93 Pinus
species. “Sturtevant’s Edible Plants of the World” lists 17 pine species.  


Korean nut pine (Pinus koraiensis). A 5-needle pine. Seed 5/8 inch long. Here in the Northwest it is generally considered a slow
growing tree. Donald Wyman and W.J. Bean both say so too. Zone 3. 


The Siberian nut pine of Russia, (Pinus cembra var.
siberica) (the Ringing Cedars of Anastasia)
is certainly hardy, Zone 2.  An
interesting quote in Sturtevant “ According to Gmelin the seeds form about the
sole winter food of the peasantry in Siberia”. The Forests of the
U.S.S.R. says that the average yield of
pine nuts is 50 kilograms per hectare. 
Which is close to 50 pounds per acre. 


The Siberian nut pine is sometimes listed as Pinus
siberica, but most authorities place it as
a subspecies of Pinus cembra, the
Swiss nut pine of the Alps. W.J. Bean’s Tree and Shrubs Hardy in the
British Isles has this to say about the
difference. “The main differences are that in the Siberian tree the leaves are
longer, the cones longer and relatively narrower, with thinner scales. Its
distribution in Russia is vast from about 55 degrees E. to an eastern limit of
around 125 degrees.  Its name in
Russian is Kedr  - word of the same parentage as ancient
Greek as kedros and Latin cedrus. In English translations of Russian works this is
usually misleadingly rendered as ‘cedar’.”  


The Forests of China
mention a forest type which includes mixed stands of Pinus cembra
var. siberica along with Pinus
koraiensis and larches (Larix).  It
also says that Pinus cembra var. siberica is the timberline species with larch
in Mongolia. 


The Forests of China
give the following description. “Pinus cembra var. siberica also seems to prefer moist places. It does not form
pure stands of any extent in Mongolia. However, pure forests of Pinus
cembra var. siberica do occur in
Siberia.  These are similar to
Pinus cembra forests in Europe.  In
Mongolia, Pinus cembra var. siberica
is generally associated with other conifers, all the way from the lowlands to
timberline. Old trees of Pinus cembra var siberica reach great size; they
protrude above the general canopy of spruce and fir and give it a ragged
appearance which is quite different from the level canopy of ordinary
spruce-fir forests.”


The vast pine forests of Russian are mainly of two species.
P. sylvestris (Scot's Pine) var. siberica is common throughout most of Russian
forests except for the Siberian northeast So the question arises: what is the
range of Pinus cembra var. siberica and the extent of Pinus sylvestris var.
siberica? Do they intermingle in places?


The most common nut pines of
commerce are the Italian stone pine (Pinus pinea) of the Mediterranean, Zone 6  and the following.


Pinyon Pine (Pinus cembroidies
var. edulis and var. monophylla), Zone 6.
Seed is 1/2 “ long. Some people rank monophylla as a separate species and some
as a subspecies of cembroidies. Pinus monophylla is the only one-needle pine. 


The digger pine (Pinus
sabiniana) of California deserves especial
mention because of the large size of its seeds. Perhaps the largest pine nut?
As large as an almond.  


The seeds of Pinus coulterii in California are also very large, large as a bean. 


Sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana), Zone 5 has the largest cones of any pine and its seeds
are ½ to ¾ “ long.


Alas, all the 5-needle pines in my
neck of the woods have been or are in the process of having their populations
ravaged by the non-native white pine blister rust. The Whitebark Pines (Pinus
albicaulis) live at timberline in the
North Cascades. Zone 2. Their seeds are ½ “ long and beloved of the native
peoples, who would climb up there to harvest them. The blister rust is working
its way through their populations at this time.    


Pine nut oil can be pressed out of all the nuts.  The remaining meal is still a very
nutritious food substance, so nothing is wasted. Pine-nut oil fetches a very
high price, so I doubt anyone would want to burn it as a fuel.


This of course is just a quick sketch. Many books have been
written about pine nuts.  Consult
the usual expert sources.   


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