Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fall in New Mexico means piñon nuts

The piñon pine is New Mexico’s state tree. The piñon is a small, drought-hardy, long-lived two-needled pine tree which grows wild in high desert mountain areas of New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah. It was adopted as our state tree on March 16, 1949.

The best part about piñon trees is that they produce the wonderful edible piñon nuts which were a staple food of the Indians who lived in this area hundreds of years ago. Piñon nuts served as a food source which helped ancient cultures to survive.

Piñon nuts are still a favorite New Mexico treat, and they are in season in September and October. They can be expensive to purchase due to the variability in the size of the crop from year to year. Hence, wherever piñon trees are growing and producing nuts, you will see people out gathering them. Right now it is common to see cars and trucks parked along the highways and country roads where the drivers are out among the trees, searching for nuts.

According to commercial piñon nut growers, the 2008 crop is in short supply (therefore expensive) but is reported to have the largest size and best flavor in years.

Out here in the Eldorado area, finding places to collect wild piñon nuts has been more difficult in recent years because so many of our piñon trees were killed off by the bark beetle about ten years ago. But you can still see cars parked along the roads, with owners out hunting for the wonderful nuts.

Piñon trees and piñon nuts -- a part of our local culture here.

(This picture was taken Nov. 9, 2008 at Pecos Pueblo.)

Some of the information for this post came from About Piñon and The Pinon Pine -- A Natural and Cultural History, with a section on pine-nut cookery by Harriette Lanner
University of Nevada Press, 1981 (reprinted 2001)


Kris, in New England said...

They sound lovely - and deadly to me. I'm allergic to all kinds of tree nuts. Unfortunately. I've only ever had a walnut, which is when we discovered the allergy when I was a little kid. Nuts always look and smell so tasty, but I'll never know.

It's so awesome that you can just stop on the side of the road and get something so delectable, without someone trying to call the police!

Buck said...

I'm coming up on six years in NM (next month) and would you believe I've never tasted a Piñon nut? Or Piñon coffee?

Aiiieee. It's a good thing I still have Texas plates on my vehicles, eh? ;-)

Towanda said...

Oh, Kris...not eating nuts would be really hard. I'm not crazy about all of them but I do love walnuts and piñons and cashews and pistachios.

Buck -- roasted piñons are so good ... and I like piñon coffee, too. Try it!

Anonymous said...

Me again, Sharon. Linda now has her computer and yahoo up and running. Again, great photos.

Sally and I and Laurell (11 year old granddaughter) are going to Linda's farm today to show Laurell all the animals that are still there.

Buck, you've got to try pinon coffee. It's our favorite. Red

SoggyInSeattle said...

I was interested in going to 'hunt' some until Pintada Kid (on the CD forum) told me to be careful not to pick up deer turds when I picked up the nuts. "Nothing is worse than watching TV, eating pinons, and biting into a deer turd."


Towanda said...

I think I would just rather buy my piñons in a store. LOL

Bag Blog said...

I just mentioned to someone yesterday that pinon season in NM was very interesting - that often cars would line the highway with people off in the trees picking pinon nuts - especially during a good year for the nuts.

Anonymous said...

Last year was a good year for pinon nuts for sure, many picking areas were hours away from Albuquerque. You can buy them from the website mentioned above,, the New Mexico Pinon Nut Company website. (They have clean product!)