Also called Indian nut, piñon, pignoli and pignolia this high-fat nut comes from several varieties of pine trees. The nuts are actually inside the pine cone, which generally must be heated to facilitate their removal. This labor-intensive process is what makes these nuts so expensive. Pine nuts grow in China, Italy, Mexico, North Africa and the southwestern United States. There are two main varieties. Both have a thin shell with an ivory-colored nutmeat that averages about ½ inch in length. The Mediterranean or Italian pine nut is from the stone pine. It's torpedo-shaped, has a light, delicate flavor and is the more expensive of the two. The stronger-flavored Chinese pine nut is shaped like a squat triangle. Its pungent pine flavor can easily overpower some foods. Pine nuts can be found in bulk in natural food stores, and packaged in many supermarkets. The Chinese variety will more likely be available in Asian markets. Because of their high fat content, pine nuts turn rancid quickly. They should be stored airtight in the refrigerator for up to 3 months, frozen for up to 9 months. Pine nuts can be used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes and are well known for their flavorful addition to the classic Italian pesto. See also nuts.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.