Ark of Taste
Nevada Single Leaf Pinyon
As a tree with much historical significance, the Single Leaf Pinyon is the appropriate choice for the official state tree of Nevada. Bearing nuts with extremely large shells, the edible component of this US native is about the size of an olive pit. The nuts have a rich fruity flavor, which is bolder than most pine nuts found in stores. Single Leaf Pinyons grow on the dry mountain slopes of Nevada, eastern California, and Utah, and are characteristic of mid-elevation habitats in the Great Basin Desert.
The Pinyon pine nut is of great cultural and gastronomic importance to the American Indians of the Great Basin region. Originally, the harvest of the Pinyon began in late summer or early fall. An elongated harvesting pole was used to knock the green pine cones off of the trees; the cones were then tapped upon a small flat anvil stone to release the seeds. The nuts are edible in their raw form, but for easier storage were mostly ground into a mush or gruel and eaten like oatmeal. When mixed with cold water, the meal would turn into a cold soup. During extremely cold times of the year, the pinyon mixture was frozen outside an eaten like ice cream. Pinyon nuts played a very important role in the Southwest American Indian diet, as the nuts are both high in fats and carbohydrates (a rarity among most seeds and fruits).
Unfortunately, today the preparation and harvesting traditions of the Pinyon pine nut are narrow.