Native to the southwestern North America and the official state tree of New Mexico, the pinyon pine trees grow especially in states such as Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. The seeds being a staple food of Native Americans, they are also widely enjoyed as a snack, and an ingredient within New Mexican cuisine. The harvesting techniques used by prehistoric American Indians are still modernly used. Pinyon seeds are collected for both commercialization and personal use, while being high in calories and fats. Wood from trees are known to be fragrant, causing it to be a common wood burned in chimineas
According to Wikipedia, there are eight known species of the true pinyon.
- Mexican pinyon : Pinus cembroides
- Potosi pinyon : Pinus culminicola
- Orizaba pinyon : Pinus orizabensis
- Johann’s pinyon : Pinus johannis
- Texas/Papershell pinyon : Pinus remota
- Two-needle/Colorado pinyon : Pinus edulis
- Single-leaf pinyon : Pinus monophylla
- Parry pinyon : Pinus quadrifolia
- Rzedowski’s pinyon : Pinus rzedowskii
- Big-cone pinyon : Pinus maximartinezii
- Weeping pinyon : Pinus pinceana
- Nelson’s pinyon : Pinus nelsonii
The largest pinyon pine tree grows near Cuba, New Mexico and is 70 feet tall. Various birds and mammals use the foliage for things like shelter and food due to the highly nutritious seeds. Pinyon nuts were a relied-food source of Native Americans for thousands of years and are now exported to markets globally. Modernly there are delicacies sold such as pine-nut butter, pesto, roasted pinyon nuts, and pinyon cafe that are sold at premium price. Pinus edulis is Latin for ‘edible pine’. For anyone who leads an active lifestyle, the pine nuts are a great food choice due to the high fat and protein gain, and it provides 3,000 calories per pound.
Aside from food, the needles found on the plants are high in Vitamin C and can be used for aromatic tea. The essential oil produced from the needles are excellent uses in treating respiratory health issues. For example, the oils can aid in treating coughs, bronchitis, colds, flu, and sinusitis. The aroma emitted from a diffuser allows the person to breathe in the oils easier.
The harvesting of the pinyon seeds was quite the process. Naturalist John Muir described the method used by Indians. In the months September and October, they knocked the cones from the trees with poles, stacked them into a big pile, put brushwood atop, lit the pile, and lightly burned the cones. This burned off the sticky resin coating the cones and loosened the seeds. After this, they allowed the cones to dry up in the sun. Since the seeds were now easily accessible, they were extracted from the cones. Another method that was used to harvest the seeds was to allow the cones to remain on the trees until they were dry and brown. After this, the cones could be broken with an object and loosening the cones, allowing the seeds to fall out of them. The agricultural Pueblo people of the Rio Grande valley of New Mexico could store them in pits for up to two or three years.