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Aug 24, 2010 06:44 AM

Best prices for pine nuts in Boston area

I have quite a bit of basil and was thinking of making time pesto in bulk to freeze for winter. My question is where can I get pine nuts in bulk at a decent price? thanks

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    1. re: treb

      I was hoping for a place I wouldnt have to drive to.

      1. re: treb

        Just a warning; read about the health problems with rancid Chinese Pine Nuts; which comprise most of the market now.

        1. re: ospreycove

          wow thanks for the tip, I was not aware of this.

          1. re: ospreycove

            I had pine mouth a few months ago and it really sucked. (It was also pretty scary before I figured out what it was.) I don't know if it's a definite correlation, but I had noticed that the pine nuts in question that I bought were unusually small.

            1. re: dfan

              You are correct - the variety that can cause "pine-mouth" has small nuts.

          1. re: MC Slim JB

            Second that--organic, not a China import and reasonable. Toast them.

            1. re: SeaSide Tomato

              The TJ's bag in my cupboard says dry roasted (organic not mentioned) from Russia or Korea. From what I've read, the pine nuts grown there are probably the same variety as the Chinese ones, which are the ones that CAN have the problem. I have not encountered it so far, knock wood. The Italian and Middle Eastern variety are more expensive but don't have the aftertaste issue.

          2. I used to think Trader Joe's pine nuts were a good deal. I buy them by the bag there. You get a lot, but when I figured out the price per pound was not much less at all than the little jars you buy in the supermarket. But, if you want to make a lot of pesto, the bags will be much more convenient.

            Trader Joe's
            1427 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

            1. I used walnuts for the first time this summer with great success. Have lots in the freezer and going to do some more. Got my walnuts at Trader Joe's.

              Trader Joe's
              1427 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

              2 Replies
              1. re: mvi

                Not quite the same as pine nuts, but walnuts do make a really good pesto.

                1. re: StriperGuy

                  Agreed. It's a richer flavor. I had a pile of walnuts sitting around and decided to give it a go. Was happy with the results. Basil this year has been a real gift.

              2. I buy a one pound bag of Portuguese pine nuts at a bakery in Methuen for $29.99 vs the Chinese pine nuts at $15.99 a pound bag.

                The Portuguese pine nut are well worth the extra money in flavor alone.

                16 Replies
                1. re: Infomaniac

                  Perhaps for baking cookies, macaroons, etc. But you can't really taste the diff in pesto, seriously.

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    I can in pesto, stuffed grape leaves and baked goods.

                    1. re: Infomaniac

                      I'll throw down the gauntlet. Try tasting the difference blind, (or even double blinded the ultimate scientific standard) without knowing which is which. Bet you'd be surprised.

                      If the Chinese ones are rancid, sure you can taste the difference. But when fresh, I'd wager a nice pesto dinner you can't.

                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        Not to be snarky at what was clearly a tongue in cheek comment, but how can a single individual do a double blind test?

                        1. re: justbeingpolite

                          It was not actually tongue in cheeck.

                          But you are correct that a single individual can not do a double blind test.

                          On further thought, not sure if double blind is strictly necessary in this case. But here is how you could design a nicely blinded study:

                          - Person A prepares three batches of pesto:

                          1. Identical ingredients plus fresh Portugese, (Italian and Spanish are also excellent) pine nuts

                          2. Identical ingredients plus fresh Chinese Pinenuts

                          3. Identical ingredients plus walnuts as a bit of a control. Though a strict control would not really be possible.

                          All three pestos should be served in identical bowls with some plain pasta. The bowls labelled A, B, C (so the preparer knows which is which) Then the person who did the prep leaves the room and rings a bell, but has no direct interaction with the taster until tasting is complete.

                          Taster waits a minute, then enters room (again noone else is in the room) tastes all three dishes, and scores them on a piece of paper. Rings bell for a second time.

                          Preparer reenters room and unblinds the study. No real need for double blind in this case.

                        2. re: StriperGuy

                          I've never done a blind taste taste but the chinese nuts have a much milder flavor than the Portuguese/Mediterranean nuts which I feel have a sweeter and nuttier taste which carries threw to the pesto.

                          I don't think I'm imagining it, but I can taste the difference.

                          I grew up eating the Mediterranean pine nuts and I can tell the difference whether whole or ground in a motar with basil, garlic and oil.

                          1. re: Infomaniac

                            OK, Striperguy, sounds like it's time to set it up. Happy to serve on the clinical trial panel.

                            1. re: Infomaniac

                              My only point is, that people often THINK they can taste the difference in a lot of things: pricey vodka, bottles of wine, etc. But in SOME cases, when tasted blind, often they can't. When mixed with garlic, and oil, I find it hard to believe that a person could tell the difference. Heck, many people can't even tell the difference when you substitute walnuts.

                              That said, I have had pine nuts that were picked from my mother-in-law's own trees, and eaten them out of hand. They are AMAZING that way. And I am dead certain, out of hand, I could taste the difference between those and others, accounting for shape, size, etc.

                              But leave those same nuts on the shelf for 6 months (as is likely for any store bought pine nut) then make pesto, I think it would be MUCH harder to tell the difference blind.

                              Our preconceptions can VERY powerfully influence our senses.

                              - Some famous examples, when tasting vodkas blind, often Grey Goose and other super premiums come in dead last when compared to much cheaper Smirnoff and others. From the NY Times:

                              - During the famous 1976 "Judgement of Paris" French wines were dethroned by the Californians for the first time:

                              - When people taste 5 different wines, and are told that one is VERY EXPENSIVE, they invariably rate that one as better tasting.

                              - I have several friends who INSIST on using Starbuck's ground coffee at home, and even "prefer" a particular varietal. But Starbuck's so badly over-roasts their coffee (I roast my own) that essentially ALL varietal character is lost. When you do a dark espresso roast of ANY bean, essentially all of the volatile oils that give that bean it's distinctive character have been burnt away...

                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                What if you soak the pine nuts in vodka, then roast them, grind them and mix them into some coffee, then drink that with a glass of red wine?

                                1. re: justbeingpolite

                                  Almost sounds like my favorite fruitcake recipe...

                                  Sounds like a party, I'll be right over.

                                2. re: StriperGuy

                                  I certainly believe people fool themselves. I know several people who MUST have the most expensive everything, even though they can't afford it. Peas under their mattresses, dontcha know! BTW, the estimable Alan Rickman gives a great performance in "Bottle Shock", a film about the Judgment of Paris.

                            2. re: Infomaniac

                              Just FYI, here is an AMAZING Penn and Teller video on why taste tests should be done blind. A little rough language, but a VERY telling video:


                              I discovered this video on another thread here where vodka was the topic:


                              1. re: StriperGuy

                                I wasn't going to say anything but I did my own blind taste test with my kid this weekend with the Portuguese pine nuts I had, and I bought some Chinese brand.

                                I made two batches of basil pesto using the same ingredients in both except for the nuts.

                                First, out of the bag, hand to mouth no comparison I could tell which was which 3 out of 3 times.

                                Second, basil pesto from bowl, spoon to mouth. I could tell which was which 3 out of 3 times.

                                Third, basil pesto crostini, I got it right 3 out of 3 times again. I was feeling pretty good about myself at this point.
                                Fourth, basil pesto stuffed chicken breast. I couldn't tell the difference, I think I got it right once.

                                Fifth, over pasta. I couldn't tell the difference at all/

                                My kid got a big kick out of it and we both had a fun time. She mixed it up pretty good

                                My girlfriend wished she video'd it. She said I went from the thrill of victory, to the agony of defeat.

                                I was shocked and I wanted to blame it on the ElYucateco Salsa Picante Roja de Chile Habanero I had with my eggs that morning.

                                1. re: Infomaniac

                                  Nice, very nice. In fact WOW!

                                  Eating pine nuts out of hand I would have thought for sure. But the straight pesto and crostini, hmmm surprising.

                                  The chicken, don't know why, but that doesn't surprise me that it would muddy things...

                                  The whackiest thing is, why CAN you tell the diff with crostini, but NOT with pasta?

                                  Perhaps we need to repeat, but in the reverse order... doh.

                                  Oh dear, I see a PhD thesis for some food science geek for sure.

                                  Very nice scientific endeavor. Very cool. Making me think I need to fire up a few batches of pesto.

                                  In the final analysis, like any good scientist, perhaps you've raised more questions then you've answered.

                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                    The chicken I agree, it was hard to tell and I was really guessing. I thought for sure I would have had better results with the pasta and was really suprised I couldn't tell.

                                    The straight out of the spoon test I could tell one version had a nuttier taste than the other, and the crostini while the nuttier taste was hidden a little, I could still taste a hint.
                                    The issue I had was when the pesto was mixed with something warm, it lost the nutty flavor. At room temp. it seemed easier to taste a difference than when mixed with something warm.

                                    1. re: Infomaniac

                                      Hmmmmm. Cool. My SO guessed that temp was the issue.