Saturday, May 13, 2017

Pining away

My daughter found a magazine with a  pinecone craft, so she picked up an unopened one fallen from a neighbor's genuine pine tree (now that I can identify those) - we realized, this is where pine nuts come from!

A little bit of browsing later, we tried heating the cone on the gas stove (fail), followed by the oven at 170, then 250, then 350 degrees. About 20 minutes in, the aroma of pine wafted around the kitchen, and the cone blossomed in the oven. Bits of a sticky sap dripped onto the baking sheet.

We removed and cooled the cone, and tapped and banged the cone on the sheet - releasing fluttery wings with a dark end attached - the pine nut! We removed the wing and kept the dark seed. Each was much smaller than the store-bought kind, and getting the meat inside proved difficult - teeth worked, but smashing ended up with pine nut dust. A new appreciation for store-bought pine nuts!

We also found that the sticky sap hardened - it dawned on me that this is pine rosin. Yes, the stuff prized by string orchestra musicians worldwide. 

When we are done banging our pinecone and getting the last few pine nuts (we were able to recover about 50 from a single pinecone), we'll be filling them with sunflower or peanut butter and coating with seeds to make a bird feeder. We might plant a few of these "nuts," feed some to birds, and keep the rest to eat. The shells are traditionally powdered or made into a tincture in Russia, so perhaps we will try that, too.

So many uses for the humble pinecone.