Pine Nut Species

Pines (genus: Pinus) are an evergreen group of coniferous seed plants consisting of approximately 100 species and numerous varieties and hybrids. Different species of pines vary greatly in numerous ways such as (1) seed productivity and commercial uses; (2) seed characteristics such as fatty acid profile, size, shape and colour; (3) nutritional and medicinal value; and (4) taste and textural properties. Despite these differences, they are all merged under the generic name of ‘pine nuts’ when retailed.

Approximately 20 species produce economically viable edible seeds for consumption, of which only P. koraiensis, P. sibirica, P. pinea and P. sibirica are known to be internationally important for their edible seeds. There are, however, other species of pine nuts that are consumed locally where they are being produced.

China has a rich pine flora and produces many species of pine nuts apart from P. koraiensis and P. sibirica. In addition, the Chinese processing plants (where pine nuts are shelled and sorted) also import un-shelled pine nuts from the neighbouring countries of Korea and Russia, then process and re-export them as Chinese pine nuts. The case of Trader Joe’s pine nuts being a ‘product of Russia and/or Korea’ is moot, as 7 samples of Trader Joe’s pine nuts collected contained the same compositional mixture of P. koraiensis, P. sibirica and P. armandii pine nuts (the last of which is responsible for the taste disturbance).

Based on collected reference species, botanical descriptions, physical measurements and industry information, I have identified 8 different commercial species of pine nuts, of which 6 of them are of Chinese origins, 1 from the Himalayan region (G) and 1 from the Mediterranean region (P). These 8 species are shown in the picture below, and the table includes a description of my observations and physical measurements I have performed. Except for U2, the rest were found in at least 1 of the complaint samples received.

Of the 6 Chinese species (A, K, S, M, U1, U2), only A (P. armandii) was found to consistently cause PNS. K (P. koraiensis) and S (P. sibirica) are the good ones that have long been established on the market. These two species also grow in regions of Russia and Korea. The visual differences between the species are rather clear, hence, with a little attention, you could avoid pine mouth! Below’s a guide with more specific descriptions to aid in your identification of the different pine nuts!

A little personal advice:
To the consumers: look out for K, P and G — these are significantly larger than P. armandii
To the dealers: specify lower seed counts of <800 counts / 100g to exclude P. armandii (range: 900-1300 counts/100g), familiarize with the different species in order to control the delivered stock.

16 Responses to Pine Nut Species

  1. Pingback: Updated Pine Nut Species Page | The Great Pine Nut Mystery

  2. Pingback: Pine mouth drives me nuts | Waallgren.se

  3. sam says:

    (Cross reference to my posts on the remedies section.)

    I looked at the remaining contents of the bag of Tesco PN and lo and behold! a bunch of what look suspiciously like p.armandii per #1photo above.

  4. Pingback: New Journal Publication in Journal of Toxicology! | The Great Pine Nut Mystery

  5. Pingback: Pine Nut Syndrome Thesis Completed: Overview | The Great Pine Nut Mystery

  6. vit says:

    sell pine nuts from the Trans-Baikal region (the most valuable nut in Siberia). Vintage 2011 Price 10 $ kg. Wholesale Party 5-20 tons
    Vitas-xl@mail.ru
    tel +7 924 272 1717

  7. janice says:

    i ate the K type and still got this strange bitter taste in mouth. it happened to me about 2 years ago and didnt know what it was. now it happened to me this week. I am on day 2 and i hate this taste. I am a chef and I can’t take it any longer. Dont know what food I am serving to my guests cause of this horrible taste!!!

  8. Ruggero says:

    Get the P type. It’s not that cheap but still the best pine nut in the world. Sold online on http://www.stonepinenutsonline.com with free shipping (Europe only at the moment).

  9. Julia says:

    I recently bought a 4 oz container of organic pinenuts from Whole Foods, and the label on the back says “product of Turkey,” but they definitely have brown tips and are relatively short and chubby. In the past, the front label advertised the product at the same price as “organic Turkish pinenuts” (back then they looked like pine nuts of the P. Pinea species–then switched to “organic pinenuts” (with the back label reading “Product of Russia”)… Comparing the pine nuts I just recently bought with some old ones I had left over that I think were actually Turkish, I’m convinced that the back label of the more recent one was wrong and there is no way that these two are the same species. Is it possible that Whole Foods lied or made a mistake with their country of origin label on the back? Or could these be from a different part of Turkey?
    I’m thinking I probably shouldn’t eat them!

  10. Shaminadar Khan says:

    World Top quality Pine NUt produce between in Hindu Kush long mountain range that stretches between northern Pakistan and central Afghanistan, The pine exported in world markets through transit routes though U.A.E China and Turkey
    The exporter/agent of Pine Nut from Pakistan is Mehran Corporation Who play major role between the buyer and seller to make a deal
    Pine Nut is commodity of cold areas and low resistance to hot weather, during shipment or transportation the goods passes through very hot areas/seas and temperature effects the Pine Nut color and taste.

  11. BILAL ASHRAF says:

    I WANT TO SELL PINE NUTS FROM PKSITAN WITH SHELL AND WITH OUTH SHELL IF YHIER IS ANY REQIMENT SO PLZ MAIL ME ON MY EMIL ID
    SALES.BILAL40@HOTMAIL.COM

  12. David Hines says:

    http://www.NutStop.com is an excellent source for Pine Nuts. I have eaten their pinenuts for the last 10 months and have never had a problem.

  13. Sally says:

    Hello Grace,
    I am a food vendor/writer. I have a few food intolerances, and a long term argument with hazelnuts. But I have never had any run ins with pine nuts…until 3 days ago. Thank you so much for this informative website: I shall endeavour to spread the word, as although I found it easy to work out roughly what my problem was, I am sure that there are many out there who worry and suffer and remain undiagnosed. Keep up the good work!

  14. being says:

    Thank you for sharing the information. My family gets organic pine nuts (Now Foods) from iherb.com . They are soft and mild in flavour and no taste disturbance issues. iherb offers $10 off purchase over $40 to new customers using discount coupon code EJE156. Give that a try.

  15. Hi,
    I recommend to all the people suffering of the pine nuts syndrome to fill a complain with the FDA. It is really easy and you can do it in their website under 5 minutes. To me is very clear that this type of Chinese pine nut is the root of the problem with the pine nut syndrome. It is my day 5 and my condition haven’t improved. I also experienced 3 days of intense headache that didn’t go away with Tylenol. The secondary effects are unknown and we should do whatever is in our hand to bring awareness so other consumers don’t suffer as us. We need those products out of our store shelves!!

  16. Khalil Mushtaq says:

    IF ANY ONE WANT CHEAPER PINE NUTS IN EUROPE PLEASE CONTACT ME AT ismsahab@gmail.com I AM FROM PAKISTAN THANKS

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