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Why are pine nuts so FREAKING EXPENSIVE?!

They are really delicious, but so are things that cost way less! I bought some today, and it was kinda too late for me to go back when I realized I paid like $8 for what was around a cup maybe... they were organic, but they were in bulk too...

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  1. Don't know the answer, but I can commiserate. I just bought pine nuts for pesto and I was surprised at the price. I don't think they were as expensive as yours, though. I got them at Trader Joe's, something like $8 for about 1.5 cups. Better be some darn tasty pesto.

    1 Reply
    1. re: kathleen221

      Pinon pickers are paid 8 dollars a pound for their harvest.
      It's a backbreaking, time consuming, labor of love kinda job.

    2. well see, its a little known secret that pine nuts are harvested by a rare species of squirrel that can smell exactly when the seeds are ripe, but before the pine cone opens its scales.

      no, not really. but pine trees take several years before they begin to bear, and each individual cone takes about 2 years to develop. each cone must be individually bagged shortly before the scales open, then the seeds have to be collected and separated from their shells.

      I usually buy mine at costco for about 1/2 to 1/3 the price of the grocery store, don't have trader joe's here.

      1. If you've ever tried to extract the kernels from pine cones by hand, you wouldn’t ask! :-)

        The price of Italian pine nuts at my market in Rome is €50 per kilo, or about $33 per pound.

        Most people I know keep them in the freezer, BTW. I've been working through a kilo I bought at a wholesale supermarket for longer than I care to admit.

        4 Replies
        1. re: mbfant

          $33 per pound! Phew! I'll stop complaining now.

          Will pine nuts go rancid if you don't keep them in the freezer? And should you bring them to room temp before using them? Right now I have the unopened bag in my pantry.

          1. re: kathleen221

            Ours are $40 for just over 1 1/2 lb. Sick. I always keep in the freezer or they definitely can go rancid fairly quickly. You do not need to bring them to room temp before using if you will be roasting/toasting them first. If you do not roast them it does not take very long at all to bring them to room temp - minutes, really.

            1. re: chefathome

              Thanks! I just put them in the freezer.

              1. re: chefathome

                $23 for 4 1/2 cups (1.5 lbs / 680g) at Costco today (in Ohio) - they are from China. Mine are always in the freezer!

          2. There are pine nut recipes that accept no substitutions but pesto isn't one of them. I usually use walnuts - tastes just the same just a darker color.

            3 Replies
            1. re: pasuga

              I so agree. Walnuts and almonds make good substitutes (as do other herbs such as mint, cilantro, sage...).

              1. re: pasuga

                My Italian friend who lives in Thailand uses cashews (because those are cheap locally). Tastes great!

                1. re: arashall

                  Many Italian commercial brands use cashews in their pesto genovese (although usually in combination with some proportion of pine nuts). I am slightly allergic to cashews, they make my mouth and throat tingle like I've just eaten some dodgy fugu.

              2. Where are they from?

                Cheap pine nuts come from China (there are different species of pine from which the culinary seeds are collected), and in recent years have been associated with a horrible allergic reaction (Google "pine mouth"). So many people will now only buy the more expensive pine nuts from elsewhere. It may be that your market stopped carrying Chinese pine nuts.

                2 Replies
                  1. re: Karl S

                    Mine are from "Korea, Russia, and Vietnam". I've read of pine mouth being associate with pine nuts from China.

                    1. It has been interesting for me to try out other nuts where I might have used pine nuts before. So far my favorite are pistachios which I now use in Italian meatballs, pesto, on salads and just be the handful (Trader Joes sells them salted and shelled.) Because I like the taste better, I've also used toasted walnuts/pecans for pesto because I like the flavor as well or better than pine.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: escondido123

                        Walnuts are quite traditional.

                        I don't think pine nuts are worth it anymore. Period.

                        1. re: Karl S

                          I'm with you. Made pesto with walnuts for years and then pine nuts came along. Back to basics for me.

                        2. re: escondido123

                          Oooh, pistachios. I may need to make an expedition into my little freezer tomorrow to see if I still have the frozen, vacuum sealed nuts I stowed awhile back.

                        3. when I was a child there was no such thing as pine nuts already removed from their shells and as the youngest in the family it became my chore..It was tedious, painful and seemed to take hours for each cup of the tiny things....I have never minded paying for a machine or someone to do that work for me, I pay the price gladly..and Costco does have an excellent deal on them.

                          1. Pine nuts....Over hyped, Over rated, and over priced!!!!!

                            Use walnuts, almonds or cashews........

                            Have Fun & Enjoy!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Uncle Bob

                              I wonder if pinon nuts would make a good substitution. They are pretty common here in Colorado (southern and western slope) and are still a pine species. My neighbors use to collect them every year. Almost busted some teeth on those shells though. Anyone tried this?

                            2. I lived in and around Taos, New Mexico several decades ago. Pinyon trees were everywhere, and we harvested wild pine nuts by the buckets every year. The problem was shelling them in the old fashioned way - low tech, by hand...hours and hours of idiot labor spent on delicate, delicious little morsels. $33/lb. referenced in another post on this thread is not too much, because pine nuts are unique, and precious.

                              Edit: to LorenM, by all means go out and get the wild pine nuts in your vicinity! If they are different from the Italian variety, I haven't noticed. But don't eat the SHELLS, except perhaps as extreme roughage.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: ptrichmondmike

                                My local (Canadian) bulk store sells pine nuts for $45 per kilo, with no mention whatsoever of origin (I'm guessing China). I'm interested to know what posters think the ideal substitute is in pesto Genovese. I like the idea of pistachios, but they'd have to be skinned and unsalted/unroasted. Pecans or walnuts would be delicious, but again, I'm concerned about the skins. Cashews sound tasty, but are quite expensive. Suggestions?

                                1. re: 1sweetpea

                                  I think most nuts would go well in pesto (and many other things), but it's probably best to keep to somewhat milder flavors. But pistachios...sigh...so yummy. Among the Great Nuts, no question. What a good idea, at least as an experiment.

                                  1. re: 1sweetpea

                                    Walnuts are traditional, too, though I guess you'd call in pesto di noce e basilico if you were strict about it, and might mix parsley in with the basil. But pesto using walnuts as the nut is very traditional in Liguria.

                                  2. re: ptrichmondmike

                                    Thanks for the info! I don't actually eat the shells but they are tough little buggers to crack without smushing the whole thing. We always ate them as a snack. They are everywhere and now that I am older, I might have to go harvesting! I remember the neighbors coming back with pounds and pounds of the things. Is there a time of year when they produce the nuts? I haven't noticed since pinyon country is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from where I am.

                                  3. My local warehouse (BJs) has them for $8.99 for a one pound bag. I tend to prefer pine nut pesto vs. walnut, only because I suspect I have a mild walnut intolerance. They make my tongue feel a bit strange, like it has a coating on it after I eat them.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: mels

                                      I was very wrong about this price. I looked at my bag in the freezer and it was $9 for an 8 oz bag and the price has since gone up. It now works out to $24/pound at BJs. Too rich for my blood, I don't like pine nuts *that* much.

                                    2. I don't like them plain, just in pesto or "en saor" dishes, so if I *must* have pignoli, I buy them in bulk, $23/lb. at Whole Foods. But what I've been doing more since they got so expensive is substituting pistachios. And I've always preferred walnuts in pesto.

                                      1. I've been known to use a mix of macadamia and pine nuts (mostly because i forgot to buy the pine nuts, and happened to have some macadamias in the house.) If anyone noticed no one said anything.

                                        1. They were never exactly inexpensive, probably due to how labor-intensive it is to obtain them, as already discussed here.

                                          But compounding that issue is a recent infestation of pine trees in Italy and other parts of Europe.


                                          1. From another thread (thanks, joonjoon), this video offers a look at just how involved the traditional ways of harvesting and preparing the nuts are.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. I don't eat pine nuts and really don't miss them because I don't think they're "all that". I always got queazy after eating pesto and narrowed it down to the pine nuts since I have never had a bad reaction to any of the other ingredients. But I digress...I wanted to mention that this topic has gone a long way in explaining the $24/lb. pignoli cookies I saw recently at an Italian deli.

                                              1. I'm suprised someone hasn't trained squirrels to open those pine cones. I'm sure he/she'll be richly rewarded for the effort.

                                                1. Pine nuts are labor intensive to harvest. Like saffron you can sub annato for the color but the flavor is not the same. Same with subbing walnuts. Not bad and you might klike the flavor better but it's not the same

                                                  1. Most are from China. I won't buy them anymore because of that.

                                                    1. In the higher altitudes(6-8000 ft) of New Mexico and Arizona pinon pine nuts are common. To harvest, put old sheets or plastic under the 12-15 foot trees. Climb up and shake the branches like mad. The pine nuts rain onto the sheets. Gather, and fill bucket. In difference to the Korean film, we roast the nuts first in the oven and then crack by running a rolling pin over them or we use a mortar & pestle. They are difficult to crack. Kids at school eat them like sunflower seed w/ a whole wad of un=cracked sunflower seeds filling their cheek, cracking w/ teeth and spitting out the hull. Pinon nuts are frequently sold road -side near the Rez.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                        I just got back from a family reunion in Albuquerque and bought some at the flea market there shelled for $5 for a smallish bag (maybe a cup's worth). Not too bad of a deal. According to another nut seller I was talking to, there has been a shortage of NM nuts due to drought/ disease this year and most are coming from AZ. Just got to figure out what to use them for.

                                                        1. re: LorenM

                                                          Two and 3 years ago were bumper crops. Maybe next year. In Pie Town, a shop makes an apple, green chile pinon nut pie that is otherworldly and the dried cherry and red chile, Cherry Bomb pie ain't too shabby either!

                                                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                            The other day I thought I'd add some pine nuts to the pate' I was making. Took what looked like a cup full from the bulk section to the cashier. She rang up $15.00 freaking dollars. I said no thanks.

                                                        2. re: Passadumkeg

                                                          Since somebody else resurrected this....

                                                          A few years ago I took a driving vacation in mid-October. Leaving Shiprock headed for Mesa Verde all the local radio stations were running advisories on where people could bring their pine nuts to sell.

                                                          I love pine nuts.