There are over 100 species of pines, however only a few produce desirable edible nuts in quantity. Pinon, as the nuts are called, is from the Spanish word for pine nut. Pinus edulis is the specific pine tree species the pinon nuts come from. It grows wild in high desert mountain areas of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. The pinon nut in the Southwest is grown primarily on Indian reservations and is used for jewelry sold to tourists as necklaces and bracelets. It is normally roasted in the shell and removed prior to eating. Pine nuts are well established in Mediterranean Europe, while the American pinon remains uncultivated.

Place the soft-shelled pine nuts between the terry cloth towels and using the rolling pin, roll firmly. You are looking for the shells to come off the nuts and stick to the towels.

The shells generally stick to the terry cloth, pulling away with the towel, and the nuts are left. This method is used by many homemakers in the Southwest.

One at a time shelling. Hold the pine nut between the thumb and the forefinger. By placing gentle pressure on the shell while rolling between the thumb and forefinger, it should pop.

It is somewhat similiar to snapping your fingers. For the freshest, best tasting nuts, it is recommended that you shell just before eating them.

By mouth. They can be snapped open much like sunflower seeds between your teeth.


This is best for soft shell pinon nuts.


If you pop them like sunflower seeds, you may have dental problems later, like cracked teeth. Be careful not to swallow or choke on the hulls.