Pine nuts are also known as Pignoli or pine kernels. They are the 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) ivory-colored seeds inside the pine cones of pine trees. The pine nut is expensive because the extraction of the nuts from the pine cones is very labor intensive Cultivated in Africa, India, Italy, China, Mexico and the United States, there are two main types: Mediterranean and Chinese.
The Mediterranean or Italian pine nut comes from the stone pine tree. It is torpedo-shaped and has a sweet, delicate flavor. It is the more expensive of the two types. Used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines they are sold in grocery stores, health food and specialty stores.
The Chinese pine nut has a stronger flavor with a teardrop shape. Available in Asian markets and used in Chinese and other Asian cuisines.
The flavor of both types of pine nuts are further enhanced when toasted, but are easily scorched because of their high fat content. The pine nut is very perishable and should be stored in the refrigerator (3 months) or freezer (9 months) in airtight containers or plastic bags.
Pine nuts are popular in both sweet (cookies, biscotti, cakes, pralines, etc.) and savory dishes.