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Pinoli Pine Nuts - Mastering The Art Of Pine Nut Harvesting

Today, we made our way to the Christchurch Food Show in Addington, an event we always look forward to. It's our chance to touch base with the creators of the artisan food products we cherish and to scout out new treasures to introduce to you.


This time around, I had a great chat with Stu, a dedicated harvester at Pinoli, which is located in the heart of the Marlborough region.


For over twenty-five years, Pinoli has dedicated itself to nurturing and harvesting pine nuts on its expansive 500-hectare plantations. They are recognised as the only commercial pine nut producer in the Southern Hemisphere and are noted for their significant contribution to the pine nut industry, a distinction underscored by their unique geographical position relative to other worldwide producers.


The Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards Supreme Winner award

We're no strangers to the excellence of Pinoli Pine Nuts, especially since they were honoured as the Supreme Champion at the 2023 Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards. In this prestigious competition, Pinoli stood out among a vast array of products spanning seven different categories.





Stu had brought with him a branch from a Mediterranean stone pine tree (Pinus pinea), the very species they cultivate at Pinoli. This choice isn't coincidental – Pinus pinea yields the pine nut most coveted and sought-after in the culinary world.


Cones ready for harvesting

On the branch were pine cones of various sizes.


This particular cone has reached the size indicating it's ripe for harvesting come June.




Cones yet to be harvested






Slightly higher up the branch, there were smaller cones nestled among the needles. These are the ones that will mature over time, destined to become part of the harvest in 2025.






Small cones on a branch


Perched at the very tip of the branch were tiny, budding cones. These will grow and ripen, ready to be harvested in 2026.












An open pine cone

When it's harvest time, the cones are detached from the tree using a mechanical shaker. Following this, they're transported to a designated drying space where they can dry out and unfurl. Once they've opened, the raw seeds are then extracted by crushing the cones.


In its pursuit of sustainability, Pinoli Pine Nuts ensures that nothing goes to waste. The leftovers from the pine cone crushing process, including the shells and cone fragments, are repurposed. These byproducts are sold to various Marlborough businesses as an environmentally friendly alternative to coal for boiler fuel. This approach not only reflects Pinoli's dedication to environmental responsibility but also illustrates its innovative steps towards achieving a zero-waste operation.



Unopened pine nut seeds

Each unopened seed is marked by a delicate hairline crack, serving as the natural point of entry to extract the nut. Pinoli has enhanced this extraction method by investing in specialised machinery to optimise efficiency. This refined process helps maintain the integrity and quality of the nut, which is essential in maintaining its flavour and nutritional value.






Now for the fun part - using them in your cooking! Pine nuts can be eaten raw, but to bring out the flavour, toast or roast them.


To roast: place raw pine nuts on a flat baking tray in a 180°C preheated oven for about 10 minutes, shaking the tray halfway through the cooking time. Nuts are ready when they are lightly golden. They will continue to brown a little more even after you remove them from the oven.


To toast: place pine nuts in a dry (no oil) frying pan on top of medium heat, move continuously by shaking the pan every 20 seconds or so. Pine nuts will toast quickly - remove from heat when golden and place on a cool plate to stop them from cooking any further.



Here's a fab recipe from Pinoli to make the most of the autumn pumpkin bounty.


Roasted Pumpkin Salad with Feta and Pine nuts


Great as a side dish or simply lay this on a bed of baby spinach and add cooked chicken pieces. (Quantities are very flexible – adjust to taste and appearance).


Fresh pumpkin in 2 cm cubes

A splash of olive oil

A few cloves of garlic, chopped

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Feta cheese in 1 to 2 cm cubes or roughly broken into pieces

A good handful of Pinoli pine nuts lightly toasted in a dry frying pan until golden.

Chopped chives


Toss cubed pumpkin in olive oil, add chopped garlic and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in a moderate oven until cooked through and golden, about 20 minutes. Combine with cubes of feta and toasted pine nuts and chopped chives while still warm. Serve hot or cold.


 




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