Kid Friendly, Austrian Pine, Needles to Nuts!   8 comments


“The truly useful is always the truly beautiful.”

~Shaker saying


Austrian Pine, Pinus nigra, is my favorite of the pines, for one simple reason, this kid can easily reach the needles and cones!  Also known as, European Black Pine, this lovely, spreading tree offers, ascetic grandeur,  tasty nuts to harvest in autumn and makes wonderful tea, year round; as all of the Pines do.  Just pick a handful of needles, chop them up, steep in boiling water, strain and enjoy.  In just 10 minutes you will have an aromatic, delicate cup full of vitamins A and C.  Perfect on a cold afternoon; and AMAZING with a spoonful of maple syrup!  YUM!

Young Austrian Pines have yellowish-brown, scaled bark, which darkens, as it grows.

Older trees spread outward as they grow to 20 feet and  have gnarly, furrowed brown and gray bark; often dappled with lichen.

One of the ways to differentiate the Pines is by their needles.  Austrian Pine, Pinus nigra, needles (below) grow in clumps of 2 and are 3-8″ long.  White Pine, Pinus strobus,  needles grow in clumps of 5 and are  3-8″ long. (1)  I picked this clump off the ground for the photo and then returned it.  For tea, I like to pick the youngest, greenest needles available.

Austrian pinecones grow in pairs

and clusters of pairs, are egg-shaped, scaled, with end wings, less than 4 inches long and flat at the base.  Their beautiful blue, purple, green, yellow, orange and brown coloring mirrors the stunning parent tree. 

Gloves are a must when gathering pine needles or cones.  The sap is horribly sticky, not easy to remove and, well, annoying!  I take only one cone from a pair and never break the branch it came from.  I take only 2 cones from a cluster and never more than 6 cones from any one tree.  There’s plenty of pinecones to go around and plenty of Austrian Pine trees.

At home I spread the cones out on a cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper; and leave them to “bloom” on a radiator, near a warm sunny window. 

At night the heat kicks on, during the day the sun comes in and within a few days these beauties begin to open; and reveal the paper-thin wings that hold the seed/nuts.   It’s fun to listen to them crackle and pop open; kind of like very slow, quiet popcorn.  This batch took about a week to fully bloom.

Shaking each pine cone, quickly dislodges a bounty of tiny, tasty pine nuts.  Austrian pine nuts are unlike the larger pine nuts available in the supermarket, or foraged elsewhere.  These little morsels have a softer, thin shell, that’s not necessary to remove.  Actually, removing the shell would remove most of the nut.  Austrian pine nuts keep longer and don’t need to be roasted, either, although it does impart a nice roasted flavor!  I keep them in the freezer, for up to two months.  During the winter months I will stuff the open cones with peanut better, roll them in seeds and hang them outside for the critters.

The wings and nuts are easily seperated.  Over a cookie sheet, I just rub a bunch between my hands, then tilt the cookie sheet and the nut/seeds roll down.  Austrian pine nuts are great sprinkled over salad, yogurt, deserts, really anywhere you would use pine nuts.  My favorite way to use them is to make Austrian Pine Nut Butter; which makes fabulous croutons!

Austrian Pine Nut Butter

4 tablespoons soft butter

2 tablespoons ground Austrian pine nuts

1 or 2 cloves crushed, finely diced garlic

A sprinkle of salt, to taste

A sprinkle of pepper, to taste

A sprinkle of, whatever, herbs suit your fancy; and/or compliment your meal.

Combine all ingreagients in a small bowl and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to develope; then enjoy!  Austrian Pine Nut Butter is great on baked potatoes, any cooked vegetable, crackers, toast and popcorn.  To make croutons, toast bread, spread both sides with the butter, cut into bite sized cubes and bake in a 400º oven, turning once, for 10 -15 minutes, until golden brown and crunchy.

It’s easy to see why the Europeans carried this pine to the Americas; in the mid-1700s, as it is fast growing, easily established, tolerates poor conditions and is really lovely, year-round.

 Just click on any photo to enlarge, for greater detail.

Thanx for stopping by.  See you soon.


Posted November 11, 2011 by forageporage in Nuts, Tea

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8 responses to “Kid Friendly, Austrian Pine, Needles to Nuts!

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  1. I have yet to find pine nuts (P. nigra or otherwise), even though it seems like it ought to be pretty simple to do. It looks like you’re “just” collecting closed cones and then forcing them to open in a controlled environment. I’ll have to give that a go. Thanks for the tips!

    • Hi J, Nice to see you. Occasionally I find an open cone on the tree or ground, with a seed or two left in it; but, that’s rare. Even the tiny 1 in, closed cones are loaded with nuts. The town managers, here in Wareham, loved Austrian Pine (and Autumn-olive) and planted many along the riverfront. I wish White Pine wasn’t so tall, as the cones, and most probably the nuts, are bigger! Good hunting to you. Let me know how it goes.

      • I suppose that has been my problem then. I’ve only ever looked for pine nuts in cones I’ve found on the ground. I don’t know of any Austrian pines around here (but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any). I’ll just have to keep my eyes peeled for unopened cones. Climbing a white pine is too daunting a task!

      • INDEED!

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