Fruit and Nut
Globally, there are about twenty species of pine that produce nuts both large and nutritious enough to be considered for human food. The different species are well scattered: from Mexico and the United States to the Mediterranean, Central Europe and Eastern Asia. Economically, the most important species are Pinus pinea (Mediterranean countries), Pinus siberica (Russia and Mongolia), Pinus koraiensis (Korea and China) , Pinus gerardiana (Pakistan and India) and Pinus cembroides (Mexico). Other important species include Pinus cembra (Central Europe), Pinus monophylla, Pinus edulis, Pinus sabiniana, Pinus torreyana and Pinus coulteri (all California) though none of these are grown commercially.
In Ireland , Pinus pinea, Pinus koraiensis and Pinus cembra are the most likely to produce regular crops of nuts. All pinenut species are strongly outbreeding so single trees may not produce nuts. For best results plant 3-4 trees of the same species.
Pinus armandii, a pine species native to China, Bhutan and parts of Burma, is known to cause an unpleasant allergic reaction known as Pine Mouth (also called Pine Nut Syndrome). The main symptom is taste disturbance. Normally the symptoms last only a few days but in severe cases they can persist for weeks, occasionally months. Commercial pinenuts originating in Asia (including Eastern Russia) are sometimes adulterated with Pinus armandii. However, Pine Mouth has not been linked to any of the pine nut species listed above.
Pine trees are very adaptable. Of the 120 or so distinct species found worldwide, most would grow in Ireland. Pinus sylvestris (Scots Pine), which is considered native to Ireland, is thought to have originated in Central Northern Asia. It is found in the wild state across a vast swathe of territory stretching from Scotland to within a hundred kilometres of the Pacific Ocean in Eastern Russia, and from the Arctic Ocean southwards as far as Turkey and Spain. Its territory encompasses an astonishing range of climates. On this evidence alone, any of the nut-bearing species of pine are worth a try.
Edible Pine Species
Pinus cembra , the Arolla stone pine, is native to the Alps and Carpathians, where it grows at a higher altitude than any other conifer. It is a very tough tree, capable of thriving in barren stony soil. In its harsh native environment it can take decades to reach nut-bearing age but when cultivated the first nuts appear at about twelve years. Requires well-drained soil. Slow growing, eventually reaching ten to twenty metres. For best results, plant more than one tree. Available March 2017
Pinus cemboides , the Mexican pinyon, is native to the North Central Mexico and Southwest Texas, where it grows at an altitude of 1500-2600 metres. Closely related to Pinus edulis and Pinus monophylla (below). In Mexico, the nuts are an important crop. Nut-producing capability in Ireland uncertain. Requires very well-drained soil. Not available
Pinus monophylla , the Single-leaf pinyon, is native to the southwestern United States and northwest Mexico, where it grows at an altitude of 1500-2600 metres. Closely related to Pinus edulis and Pinus monophylla. The tree is surprisingly adapatable, and large specimen trees can be found on favourable sites in the UK. Cold tolerant to -20°C. Nut-producing capability in Ireland uncertain. However, this species is the most promising of the three pinyons listed here. Requires very well-drained soil. Available March 2018
Pinus edulis , the Rocky Mountain pinyon, is native to Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. Closely related to Pinus monophyla and Pinus cembroides. Grows in arid upland environments. Cold tolerant to -25°C. In the past, important food crop for indigenous peoples. It is a very tough and long-lived tree, capable of thriving in near-desert conditions and living for 750 years or more. Nut-producing capability in Ireland uncertain. Requires very well-drained soil. Not available
Pinus gerardiana , the Chilgoza pine, is native to Kashmir, Eastern Afghanistan, Baluchistan (Pakistan) and Southern Tibet where it grows at between 2000 and 3500 metres above sea level. In the regions where the indigenous forests prevail, the Chilgoza pinenuts are an important economic crop, but lack of regeneration from over-grazing, combined with over-harvesting and the cutting down of trees for fuel have put the tree at risk and it is now on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In its native environment, t he tree is slow growing, eventually reaching 10-20 metres.
The Chilgoza pine is likely to grow well in Ireland but will do best on well-drained sites. Nut-producing capability is unknown, but seems likely. Available October 2017
Pinus coulteri , the Coulter pine, is native to coastal ranges of southern California and northwest Mexico. Closely related to Pinus sabiniana and Pinus torreyana. Known to be adaptable to colder climates and tolerant of high rainfall. Cold tolerant to -15°C. The Coulter pine makes a small tree with a broad crown. In its native environment it can eventually reach 15-20m, occasionally 25m. The cones are very large and can sometimes weigh 2kg. Nut-producing capability in Ireland uncertain. Available March 2018
Pinus torreyana , the Soledad pine, is a very rare pine native to Santa Rosa island and several cliff sites in San Diego county, California. Closely related to Pinus sabiniana and Pinus coulteri. The Soledad pine is a small tree, rarely exceeding 15m. It is not very cold tolerant and will be damaged by temperatures below -6°C. In Ireland, only suitable for mild maritime environments. Nut-producing capability in Ireland uncertain. Available March 2018
Pinus sabiniana , the Digger pine, is native to the coastal ranges of California. Closely related to Pinus torreyana and Pinus coulteri. Formerly an important food crop for the indigenous Maidu tribes (Digger Indians). The Digger pine is a small tree, typically reaching about 15m in its native environment. It is adapatable to a wide range of climates and soils. Nut-producing capability in Ireland uncertain, but quite promising. Available October 2017
Pinus koraiensis , the Korean stone pine, is native to Korea, Northern China, the Pacific coast of Russia, and Northern Japan. Closely related to Pinus siberica, but thought to be more adaptable to Irish conditions. It should produce the first nuts after about 10 years. Can tolerate a wide range of soils. Will grow into a large tree. Also valuable for timber. For best results, plant more than one tree. Available October 2017
Pinus pinea, the Medierranean stone pine, grows well in Ireland and will produce the first nuts after 8-10 years. It is a tough hardy tree, tolerant of frost to -15°C. It will grow in any well-drained soil. Very good in coastal locations. This is by far the best choice of pinenut tree for Ireland. Slow growing with spreading habit. Also valuable for fuel. For best results for nuts, plant a minimum of 3-4 trees. In stock
Pinus pumila, the dwarf Siberian pine, is native to the Russian Pacific coast, Northern Japan and parts of Korea and China. Closely related to Pinus koraiensis and Pinus siberica. It forms a dwarf tree or large shrub, occasionally reaching six metres. Compared to other pinenuts, the nuts are very small. Of the pinenut trees offered here, probably most suitable for harsh coastal situations. For best results plant more than one tree. Available March 2017
Pinus siberica, the Siberian stone pine, is closely related to Pinus cembra, the Swiss Stone Pine, but produces larger nuts. It is a long-lived tree (c500 years) that in its native environment can grow to 30 metres. Although it has evolved to cope with the extreme temperature variations of Siberia and Mongolia, it appears quite comfortable in cool temperate climates. Known to be growing in coastal regions of some Baltic countries. Nut-producing capability in Ireland is unproven, but appears possible. Probably best on a cold upland site. The first cones should appear after about 15 years. Also valuable for timber and fuel. For best results plant more than one tree. In stock
Conifers, Keith Rushforth (Christopher Helm, London 1987)