pine nuts

northwoodswis4December 21, 2012

While on the rim of the Grand Canyon recently, we sampled wild pinyon nuts, which had a bumper crop this year. Since the weather there is similar to our northern Wisconsin zone 4, I started wondering if they would grow in Wisconsin. Then I came across a magazine article that indicated that pinyon pines were a zone 5 plant, but Siberian pine and Korean pine produce pine nuts and would grow in zone 4, although they take about 20 years to produce, and then they don't produce every year. I have recently purchased some acreage, so have space to play around a bit. Has anyone in Wisconsin tried growing either of these edible pines? If so, did they manage to keep the squirrels at bay until they harvested some pine nuts? Thanks for any advice on this new possibility for me. I am also interested in experiences with hazelnuts.

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Mark Shepard in Viola, WI is a hazelnut guru. He's also growing Siberian pine and Korean pine. You can check out his website for info. He's a real friendly guy and accepts visitors at his place by appointment.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 12:52AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

you could also check in at the conifer forum ...

your biggest problem.. with conifers.. is the 10 to 20.. to 30 years.. before a given plant even cones ..


Here is a link that might be useful: and this might be the part that is a problem in z4: During the winter, frequent dramatic changes in temperature, along with drying, gusty winds, makes the cones susceptible to freeze-drying that damages them permanently; in which case, growth is stunted and they wither away.[9]

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 8:52AM
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That is good information to start with. I'll take a look at it. Thanks very much. Northwoodswis

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 7:23PM
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My home state of New Mexico is the heart of pine nut country, so I'll reserve the right to ramble a bit on this topic... It can get plenty cold here due to the high elevation, and so this is not really a concern with the two most common species of nut pine in the western US: Pinus edulis, and Pinus monophylla. They grow in areas classified as zone 4 or even 3. Too much precipitation and too much humidity might be problematic in some places though.

But in the wild these species only have good crops two or three times a decade in any one area. This is as much due to an adaptation to keep seed predator populations in check as to climatic variability. When a bumper crop comes all the animals gorge on the goods, but can never sustain really large populations during the lean years in between to eat all of the seeds when another big crop comes. This means plenty of seeds to germinate and start a new generation of pines, and plenty of seeds for humans too.

This unpredictability of the crop, coupled with what Ken mentioned about late bearing, is probably why pine nuts were always gathered exclusively from wild trees (and continue to be throughout the Southwest, Mexico, and the Mediterranean).

Recently, the nuts from Siberian and Korean pines grown in plantations mostly in China have overtaken the market. I'm guessing these Asian species are more precocious, and more annually bearing trees to make this worthwhile, though it may not work here on a large scale because of labor costs. Instead, you can always find for sale the wild-harvested pinyon here in the Southwest from trees that nobody had to water and care for over the many years from seed to bearing.

Lastly, a note about pine nut quality: anyone relatively familiar with the Southwestern species will consider the imported Asian (and even Italian) pine nuts to be inferior. The former are much sweeter, without the subtle rancid flavor, and have a much thinner shell that is traditionally cracked in one's mouth the way you eat a sunflower seed. The latter have an incredibly hard shell that your teeth cannot crack. Granted they are rarely sold with the shell on, but this means a higher price, and a lesser food value of the seeds themselves.

Knowing all of this, despite how wonderful the pine nuts are these pines would probably be one of the last things I would try growing for food if I lived outside the Southwest. However, growing these species for their ornamental value or as a windbreak, for live Christmas trees, or for wildlife also has many merits.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 3:33PM
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Sounds like we can grow US native pine nuts in WI. I've harvested pinion pine cones in the mountains outside of LA around Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead area. Man, I'm glad we had on rubber gloves! Those cones were so resinous and sticky its hard to describe. Very labor intensive to pick through the cones too. Glad we had some apprentices interested in work trade!

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 3:59PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

IMHO there is no comparison with the pinon of the Southwest. From stories I have heard it is not squirrels that are the problem, but instead the mice that are the solution. A very popular way of harvesting the nuts is to simply find the stashes that the mice have made and raid them.

I was told by my New Mexican grandfather that the pinon only seed every seven years. Thankfully we are blessed with the ability to buy them here in Colorado at chili stands that are set up every fall. They are outrageously expensive but I always treat myself to some every year.

I confess that when I make empanaditas lately I buy the imported/inferior nuts from Costco.

Just for fun I am including a recipe that is the closet I've found for my grandmother's empanaditas. They are labor intensive and we usually only make them at Christmas.

New Mexican Empanaditas

Empanaditas are merely little fried pies or turnovers: you may use your favorite mincemeat filling or any sweet filling or this one:

2 beef tongues
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 cup raisins
1 cup roasted shelled pinon nuts
2 tbs. blackberry brandy

Cover well washed tongues with water in large kettle and simmer till tender - about an hour. Cool and peel. Retain 1 cup of the broth. Grind meat in grinder and place in large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well with hands, using broth to moisten. Let mixture stand while you prepare pastry. [better if left refrigerated over night or several days]


5 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
3 tbs. sugar
3/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup water

Sift flour into large bowl and stir in salt and sugar. Cut in shortening. Mix in milk and water to form a soft dough. Knead dough with hands for about 3 minutes. Form dough into balls about the size of eggs. Roll out on floured board. Place 1 tsp. filling on half circle of dough folding over other half to enclose. Pinch edges of dough together to prevent filling from leaking. Deep fry empanaditas a few at a time in moderately hot oil. (350F) till golden brown. Drain on paper towels or brown paper (grocery bag) serve warm. Reheat in 300F oven.

This post was edited by milehighgirl on Sun, Dec 23, 12 at 17:01

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 4:58PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

The former are much sweeter, without the subtle rancid flavor

==>> well that description makes me want to go stick a handful in my mouth.. lol


    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 9:30AM
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Enjoyed some pinyons a friend sent years ago, though the resin was not my favorite.
Charles Rhora may be the most experienced nut-pine grower in the eastern part of North America, and offers a number of different species from his nursery

Here is a link that might be useful: Rhora Nut Nursery - Nut Pines

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 4:27PM
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Am growing 2 Pinus Remota Pinyons for last 5 yrs. They're almost 3' tall. On a good yr. they grow 5" (not always straight up). Not so good, maybe 1-2". If you're not careful, they croak(I started out with 6).
Some thoughts if you are going to try growing them outside of sw US assuming you are in an appropiate zone :
Must have a spot that will be sunny for the next 20-30 yrs while they creep ever so slowly upwards (or be willing to cut down things that shade them).
Must have a very well-draining site.
Must have patience of Job.
Check with the Lovett Pinetum to see what their results have been. They have tried many pine tree species and keep records on success, failures, and marginal species, ec.
While I enjoy my two and those in the wild, I personally would not recommend them outside of their current range and will not plant any more of them.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 11:09AM
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