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All about “Pignon”

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Health profile

Sometimes called “pine nut”, the pinion is a seed housed between the shells of the apple of certain pines growing in particular in southern Europe. The pinion is also very popular in this region of the globe, and it is more and more welcomed on the shelves of North American markets. In addition to being nutritious, it has a delicate flavor that goes well with pasta; the pine nuts are one of the ingredients of choice in a good Italian pesto.

Active ingredients and properties

Weight gain: the reality behind the legend …
Many people tend to reduce their consumption of shelled and oil seeds for fear that their high caloric content will lead to weight gain. However, two large reviews of the scientific literature contradict this idea and show that regular consumption of shelled and oil seeds is not associated with weight gain 12 , 13 . This could be explained in particular by an incomplete absorption of lipids which would lead to a reduction in energy intake, by an increase in satiety or by an increase in metabolism following the consumption of nuts and oil seeds.

For shelled and oilseed fruits in general

Several epidemiological and clinical studies associate regular consumption of nuts and oil seeds with various health benefits such as a cholesterol-lowering effect 1 , a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease 2 and type 2 diabetes 3 . Other studies have found a decreased risk of gallstones in men 4 , and a reduced risk of gallbladder removal 5 and colon cancer in women 6. The amount of shelled and oil seeds related to these benefits is most of the time approximately five ounce (30 g) servings per week.

For the pinion

Composition . Nuts and oil seeds, of which the pine nut is a part, are generally good sources of vegetable protein . According to Health Canada’s Canadian Nutrient File , the pine nut contains almost 14% of its weight in the form of protein. These proteins are less complete than animal proteins. However, by consuming various sources of protein in their day (for example cereals, legumes, nuts, animal proteins), adults can easily meet all their protein needs. In addition, the fat of the pinion is mainly formed of “good fats” for health, mainly polyunsaturated fats and, in a smaller proportion,monounsaturated fat .

Phytosterols . The pinion contains phytosterols, compounds with a structure similar to that of cholesterol in animal products, but which prove to be beneficial for cardiovascular health , 8 . A study showing the phytosterol content of several varieties of nuts and seeds indicates that the pine nut contains 236 mg / 100 g, which is higher than the average of all the nuts and seeds studied (198 mg / 100 g) 9 . A meta-analysisof 41 clinical trials revealed that taking 2 g / day (2,000 mg) of phytosterols reduced LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) by 10%: this reduction could reach 20% in the context of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol 10 . This amount of 2 g / day is practically impossible to achieve only through food, and Health Canada does not currently allow the marketing of foods enriched with phytosterols. However, the phytosterols found naturally in food remain interesting for cardiovascular health.

Other properties

Is the pinion antioxidant? A little  : the pinion has a TAC index of 244 μmol per 34 g serving.
Is the pinion acidifying? No data available
Does the gable have a high glycemic load? No data available

Most important nutrients

See the meaning of the nutrient source classification symbols

 Phosphorus . The pine nut is an excellent source of phosphorus (see our fact sheet on Phosphorus nutrients ). Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body after calcium. It plays an essential role in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. In addition, it participates among other things in the growth and regeneration of tissues and helps to maintain normal blood pH . Finally, phosphorus is one of the constituents of cell membranes.

 Magnesium . The pinion is an excellent source of magnesium for women and a good source for men , their needs being different. Magnesium participates in bone development, protein construction, enzymatic actions, muscle contraction, dental health and the functioning of the immune system. It also plays a role in energy metabolism and in the transmission of nerve impulses.

 Zinc . The pinion is an excellent source of zinc for women and a good source for men , their needs being different. Zinc is involved in particular in immune reactions, in the production of genetic material, in the perception of taste, in the healing of wounds and in the development of the fetus. It also interacts with sex and thyroid hormones. In the pancreas, it participates in the synthesis (production), the storage and the release of insulin.

 Manganese . The pinion is an excellent source of manganese. Manganese acts as a cofactor for several enzymes that facilitate a dozen different metabolic processes. It also participates in the prevention of damage caused by free radicals .

 Copper . The pinion is an excellent source of copper. As a constituent of several enzymes, copper is necessary for the formation of hemoglobin and collagen (protein used for the structure and repair of tissues) in the body. Several copper-containing enzymes also help the body’s defense against free radicals.

 Iron . The pinion is a good source of iron for men and a source for women , their needs being different. Each body cell contains iron. This mineral is essential for the transport of oxygen and the formation of red blood cells in the blood. It also plays a role in the production of new cells, hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in nerve impulses). It should be noted that the iron contained in food of vegetable origin is less absorbed by the organism than the iron contained in food of animal origin. However, the absorption of iron from plants is favored when consumed with certain nutrients, such as vitamin C.

 Vitamin E . The pine nut is a good source of vitamin E. A major antioxidant, vitamin E protects the membrane that surrounds the cells of the body, especially red and white blood cells (cells of the immune system).

 Vitamin K . The pinion is a good source of vitamin K. Vitamin K is necessary for the synthesis (manufacture) of proteins collaborating in blood coagulation (as much for stimulation as for inhibition of blood coagulation). It also plays a role in bone formation. In addition to being found in food, vitamin K is manufactured by bacteria present in the intestine, hence the rarity of deficiencies in this vitamin.

 Vitamin B1 . The pinion is a source of vitamin B1. Also called thiamine, vitamin B1 is part of a coenzyme necessary for the production of energy mainly from the carbohydrates that we eat. It also participates in the transmission of nerve impulses and promotes normal growth.

 Vitamin B2 . The pinion is a source of vitamin B2. This vitamin is also known as riboflavin. Like vitamin B1, it plays a role in the energy metabolism of all cells. In addition, it contributes to tissue growth and repair, hormone production and the formation of red blood cells.

 Vitamin B3 . The pinion is a source of vitamin B3. Also called niacin, vitamin B3 participates in many metabolic reactions and contributes particularly to the production of energy from the carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and alcohol that we ingest. It also collaborates in the DNA formation process , allowing normal growth and development.

 Folate . The gable is a source of folate. Folate (vitamin B9) is involved in the production of all cells in the body, including red blood cells. This vitamin plays an essential role in the production of genetic material (DNA, RNA), in the functioning of the nervous system and the immune system, as well as in the healing of wounds and wounds. As it is necessary for the production of new cells, adequate consumption is essential during periods of growth and for the development of the fetus.

What is a “portion” of pine nuts worth?
Weight / volume Pine nuts, dehydrated, 34 g (60 ml)
Calories 230
Protein 4.7 g
Carbohydrates 4.5g
Fat 23.4g
-saturated 1.7g
– monounsaturated 6.4g
-polyunsaturated 11.7g
-Omega 3* 0.1g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Dietary fiber 1.3 g

Source  : Health Canada. Canadian Nutrient File , 2005.
* EPA, DHA and Alpha-Linolenic Acid


Nut allergy (shelled and oilseed)
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) 11 list of major allergens includes “nuts”, which refer to a variety of nuts and oilseeds which may include the pinion. It is also recommended that people allergic to peanuts refrain from consuming all shelled and oil-bearing fruits, since these foods have a high allergenic potential and they are often handled and distributed by companies specializing in peanuts. Symptoms of shell allergy and oilseed allergy can be severe and can even lead to anaphylactic shock .

Urinary stones
Some people may be recommended to adopt a restricted diet of oxalates in order to prevent recurrences of kidney or urinary stones (also called urinary stones). Oxalates are compounds that are found naturally in several foods, including shelled and oil seeds. It is therefore preferable that these people avoid consuming it.

The gable over time

The pinion is the seed of the pine cone (or casserole). The term ”  pine  “, which appeared in the language in 1080, derives from the Latin pinus .
Large pine nuts, small harvest
The largest pine nuts (average length: 2.50 cm) are produced by a Mexican species, P. maximartinezii . Unfortunately, it is unlikely to be seen in trade, as this pine occupies a very limited area in the Zacatecas region in northern Mexico.

There are approximately 120 species of pine, with one exception, from the northern hemisphere. They occupy the most diverse habitats, from the desert to humid forests, and all altitudes, from sea level to the treeline (altitudinal limit beyond which trees no longer grow). Mexico alone has 60, followed by the United States (45) and China (20).

Consumed in Europe and Asia since the Paleolithic, pine nuts have also been part of the diet of Native Americans in South and West North America since their arrival on this continent. In western Canada, for example, the fruits of albica pine and ponderosa pine were eaten. The apples (or casseroles) were put on the fire, then they were beaten to extract the pine nuts, which were roasted, reduced to powder and mixed with animal fat, berries, etc. The pine nuts were also used as currency between the various Amerindian nations, for hazelnuts, for example.

All pine species produce pine nuts, but in many cases the pine nuts are too small to deserve the effort that must be taken to harvest them. As a result, the number of species cultivated or harvested for this purpose is quite limited. In Europe, umbrella pine has been cultivated for at least 6,000 years, the gables of which were greatly appreciated by the Greeks and the Romans. Aola is also cultivated there, while in Asia, the species Pinus koraensis is the most widespread. The majority of commercial pine nuts belong to one or the other of these species.

Edible oil is very popular with gourmets from the pine nuts of certain species. Apart from its culinary uses, it is used in oriental medicine and is used in the composition of cosmetics.

Culinary uses

To access more recipes, you can visit the recipes site, which offers among others, the following recipes: pinion pine, pine nut salad , oil pinion pine

Choose well

Despite their high price, commercial gables are often rancid. The biggest enemy of pine nuts, which are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids , is indeed time … They must be obtained in stores where there is a good rotation of goods and, if possible, smell the pinions to check if they are rancid. Either way, buy only small amounts at a time.

The pine nuts in their bark (it is a more or less thick peel which covers each of the pine nuts) will keep much longer, but they must be peeled. They can be ordered by post or online.

Culinary dishes

The pine nuts are at their best when roasted for a few minutes in a dry pan. Stir constantly to prevent them from burning. Raw or roasted, salted or not, they are delicious in soups, vegetable or fruit salads, pastries, etc.

A delicate oil!
Add a few drops of pine nut oil to a vinaigrette, a pan of sautéed vegetables, a minestrone soup or pesto pasta, on a slice of bread, or use it with goat cheese to make a delicious spread.
  • Milkshake: mix fresh or frozen fruit with cow’s, goat’s or soy milk in a blender, adding a few pine nuts and, if desired, flax seeds.
  • Pesto  : this condiment is prepared with basil leaves blanched for a few seconds in boiling water, then cooled in ice water and drained. Pass them in a blender with olive oil, pine nuts and Parmesan cheese. We season the pasta, minestrone soup, boiled potatoes or braised vegetables. You can omit the cheese and replace the basil with other fresh herbs of your choice.
  • We can also cook broccoli , then pass it in the food processor with garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, red pepper. Serve this sauce over pasta and sprinkle with grated parmesan.
  • Spinach quiche: blanch spinach in boiling water, drain and put in a pie shell previously baked in the oven. Cover with a mixture of beaten egg yolks with cream and grated Gruyere cheese, garnish with pine nuts and a few black olives and put in the oven for about 20 minutes.
  • Sauce: put pine nuts to soak overnight in water. Then pass them in a food processor with part of the soaking water, a good amount of fresh basil and a little soy sauce. Depending on whether it is more or less thick, this sauce can season a salad, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc.
  • Or add the pine nuts, rice vinegar, water and a little mustard, soy sauce or honey to the blender. Serve over grilled vegetables .
  • Soften goat cheese and make dumplings that will be rolled in raisins and roasted pine nuts. Serve as an aperitif.
  • Chop the coriander and parsley leaves and mix them with roasted pine nuts. Season with chopped garlic and vinaigrette and serve.
  • You can make a simple soup by passing them through a food processor with egg yolks. Put on the heat and add chicken or vegetable broth, as well as cream or milk.
  • Stir in cooked shrimp, pine nuts and sour cream. This puree can be served on crackers or on fresh greens.
  • Serve pasta with previously cooked pieces of asparagus and red pepper, roasted pine nuts, olive oil, zest and lemon juice, and fresh Parmesan shavings.
  • Pilaf rice: sauté rice, pine nuts and green onion rings in butter or oil, add broth or water, cover and cook until rice is done.
  • It is often used in farces in Greece and the Middle East: for example in sambousik , a kind of pastry made from a dough made from wheat flour, butter and water, rolled out, stuffed a mixture of minced meat and onion returned in oil or butter, and pine nuts. The dough is folded over the stuffing and the pastry is baked in deep frying. For a healthier dish, it can be steamed.
  • Or, in the dolmades: we stuff the vine leaves with a preparation based on rice, onions, raisins and pine nuts. To vary, replace the vine leaves with Swiss chard leaves.
  • Or stuff cherry tomatoes with a mixture of feta, yogurt and chopped basil. Garnish with pine nuts.
  • Or stuff honey apples and some pine nuts and put in the oven.
  • Fish in a crust: switch to the food processor of basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and parmesan. Coat one side of the fish fillet with this preparation. Cook the fish for a few minutes in the pan, then finish cooking in the oven.
  • Sprinkle salads with a few roasted pine nuts: for example a salad of endives and apples; or potato, red pepper and arugula; or on this Italian salad: radicchio, arugula, fennel, orange wedges and raisins, drizzled with red wine vinegar dressing.
  • Landaise salad: there are many variations of this salad from the South West of France, but it generally includes smoked duck breasts, to which will be added gizzards of duck or foie gras and slices of tomatoes or wild mushrooms , all placed on a bed of various greens (lamb’s lettuce, Treviso, oak leaf, etc.). We sprinkle with pine nuts and roasted walnut kernels.
  • Put the pine nuts in the couscous or the tagines.
  • Pie: roll out a shortcrust pastry and place it in a pie plate. Fill with a mixture of feta, sundried tomatoes, roasted pine nuts, onions in oil, olives and capers, season with garlic and basil. Place in the oven for about fifteen minutes and serve.


Since they go rancid easily, it is best to keep the pine nuts in the refrigerator (three months) or even in the freezer (nine months).

Ecology and environment

A greedy beetle
In recent years, as a result of global warming and drought in the southern United States, the breeding period of the bark beetle, a species of beetle that lives under the bark of trees and digs there many galleries, doubled, resulting in a massive increase in infestations. Result: in New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Arizona, the pine trees and the ponderosa pines die by the millions without having been able to find, for the moment, a solution to this problem which is taking shape of a real epidemic.

Millions of hectares of pine forests disappeared under the ax woodcutters in the XX th  century because we wanted to increase the grazing areas for cattle. In the mid-1990s, an American woman took action to stop the deforestation of the pine forests of the southwestern United States. In these regions, at least two pine species produce pine nuts large enough to be marketable and, according to some estimates, their exploitation is a hundred times more profitable per hectare than that of cattle.

Under the leadership of this woman and thanks to a SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) subsidy from the American government, a business to develop the American gable was thus born in Nevada and offers several families the opportunity to live the harvest of this commodity while allowing to conserve the pine forest as well as its flora and fauna.

This initiative is part of a movement present today all over the planet and which aims at the sustainable exploitation of the forest by focusing on products other than wood (non-timber forest products), for example wild mushrooms, ornamental or medicinal plants, maple syrup, coniferous resin, etc.

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