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Pine nut stories that touch your heart

The Great Pinon Nut Give Away Story Contest

We are often asked for pinyon pine nut donations. We have given pine nuts to may different types of projects over the years, elder project, animal rehabilitation, community fund raisers, environmental causes and every now and again - just a random client because we can.

In 2007, we give away 50 lbs of pine nuts

10  groups, individuals or projects each got a 5 lb box of Pinyon Penny's Pine Nuts. They wrote a short story in one or all of the following categories: 

1.)  two 5 lb orders to elders who cannot pick their own, or sages who cannot afford to buy pine nuts. The elder or humble sage should have a connection with teaching, wild harvesting and caring for the land and its people.

 2.)  two 5 lb orders to schools or educational projects. We invited a short story about the work of a teacher or a project in your community.  "Tell us what the pine nuts can do for the project." 

3) two 5 lb orders to animal rehabilitation centers on someone performing a blessing on behalf of the animal kingdom

4.) Family Traditions -

We gave away two 5 lb orders of pinyon pine nuts to people who wrote us the best story about their family heritage and traditions of pinyon nuts.

Pinyon Pine Nut Story Entries 

Catagory 1 Elders and Sages




Here is my pine nut story. It took more than sixty years to write. 

As a little girl, that was more than fifty years ago, my mom would buy Indian nuts.

They were tiny, white and took forever to crack. But they were good. I would peel my

share of nuts and save the meat until I had a pile. I placed my collection in my mouth

and savored the taste until it was necessary to swallow. My sisters lacked my patients.

 They would eat each nut as soon as it was peeled. If I turned my back they would grab

some of my pile. I felt like I had to hide my nuts. A couple of years ago we were talking

about Indian nuts, reminiscing about this childhood experience. I could not find them in stores and

 the people I asked had never heard of such a nut. I went on line to find Indian nuts and

like almost everything else today, I found them. The companies I located did not

have any available, that is, those grown in the United States. I placed my E-mail address on mailing lists.

Your company informed me of their availability and I ordered two pounds.

One of the pounds I sent to my 87.5-year-old mother in Florida the other

I kept for myself. She called to tell me how excited she was when she received

 her package. She had immediately called my sisters and then called me to

share her excitement. Now, as I sit on my sofa, peeling the nuts, making a pile to be devoured at my leisure knowing I did not have to share, my sisters live in Florida.


Winner: Since I can remember, my Dad who was of course, my teacher too,

 has been collecting pine nuts with his brother in the mountains around Reno, Nevada.
This would be his special, once a year trip with his brother. They often didn't
see eye to eye on much of anything, so this was the one thing they did together.
Dad and Uncle Bob lived in Reno as boys, Uncle Bob still does.

Dad would come back sometimes laden down with nuts, sometimes with
only a few. In the years with plenty, Dad would soak them, shell and all, in
a special brine solution he made, then lay them out to dry. In the lean years,
he frozen them and was very stingy in giving them out!

When I was in college in the not-so-distant-past, [graduated in 2000], I
took an ethnobotany course. In this class we all made pinenut necklaces.
I knew just where to go to get a selection of nice shells. We strung them
on dental floss and used an authentic Native American hand drill to drill
holes in pieces of abalone shell.

Truly, no part of the pinenut was thrown away.

I am 54 and this was the first year that I can remember Dad didn't go
pine nut gathering. He is 81 and not able to get around as easily as he used too.
His brother is 87 and in the same place. Climbing around on mountains,
swinging a leg over a fallen tree, scrambling up a slippery slope is not
appealing anymore to tired bones.

The man who taught me how to fly fish, hunt, shoot a gun, clean that gun,
recognize animal tracks, take care of the forest, cull trees so the forest
would grow strong and how to build a fire is winding down.  


Catagory 2  schools or educational

What I do have is 260 students who every semester love to see a Clark's Nutcracker cache,

store in sub lingual pouch, and devour pine nuts.  This is all part of a seed dispersal and

 mutilism demonstration I preform every semester for the Majors students enrolled in Biology 103 (Organismic Biology).

 I work on lab fees only and would love to be able to obtain some nuts for the students.

  I by the way am the laboratory coordinator for Biology 103, at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.



I would like to make a request to possibly win some pine nuts.

 In writing this request I am hoping to mend a friendship that some how got lost in

 the midst of just misunderstandings and doing life.

 These people are my neighbors and also Native Americans.

They were the ones that turned me on to pine nuts,

showed me how to roast them, shared how they are picked and shared in some traditional

stories regarding their traditions .However the best part of all was how to sit around and

 eat them over conversation and laughter. Just being together as people and being and

enjoying one another's company as well as eating one of Life's little treasures.

I miss this  aspect of being with them. It really wasn't the pine nuts I have missed.

 Those can be gotten. It is the friendship and laughter  and conversation I miss.

So Sometimes in Life you just say your sorry because it is a place to start even

if you are not sure why you are apologizing or what for. It is just a place to start

. I would hope the gift of Pine nuts would be a symbol of that and perhaps an

opportunity to sit around again and mend any misunderstandings.

When one feels missing or shunned from the community you no longer have community.

 I hope this gift would bring back an opportunity to heal, and to just sit around with

them and bring back laughter,friends,community and the joy of just being with what

little time we have together in this journey we call life. I believe the gift of Pine nuts can

do this as well as the gift of friendships. I thank you in advance for this opportunity.


Catagory 3 animal rehabilitation centers



We first

When I was a young boy growing up in Chicago in the 1930s, our family bought small packages of what were then called "monkey nuts" (pine nuts) at the corner neighborhood store.  They came in a package of about 150 nuts for 5 cents.

I came to California in 1943 onboard a combination passenger and troop train headed

from Chicago to California with a lot of soldiers onboard (remember it was World War II time). 

 It was a 4-day trip by train and I brought pine nuts with me as a snack on the train. 

 In the late 1940s and early 1950s, I used to go with friends and family from Burbank

over the old Grapevine Road (Grapevine) (now called Highway 5) up to the Frazier Park/Lebec area of

 Southern California, then west 10 or 15 miles to a rural mountain area with a Pinyon Pine forest.

  We usually went around October, bringing a couple of blankets to put under the Pinyon Pine Trees. 

We then shook the trees very hard and the nuts fell onto the blankets. 

 We gathered them up and took bags full back to our family and friends to share. 
I started trying to grow Pinyon Pine Trees myself from seeds and found the best way

 to germinate pine nuts seedlings was to take each seed and rub it with sandpaper to take away

a little of the protective shell coating to make the shell porous, then soak the seeds for 24 hours in water. 

 We then planted them in a potting mix in a small pot.  After they germinated, I grew them in pots for a year or two and then

I would plant the seedlings in the ground or give them as presents to friends, telling them that if they took

 good care of the resulting trees then the trees would take care of them in their old age by providing wonderful Pinyon Pine Nuts. 


I am 75 now, on a limited income, and cannot afford to drive to Frazier Park or anywhere else now. 

 Over the years I have bought pine nuts from China, Italy, Nevada, and California, and even some from Mexico.

  I would like to taste again those wonderful pine nuts and be able to teach others how to grow Pinyon Pine Trees

 to help replace the rapidly disappearing Pinyon Pine Forest and recapture what was once a sustainable food source for ancient people living off the land.

I was surprised to see your last name as Frazier which is apparently a coincidence that I did not know

 about regarding the location of the Pinyon Pine Forest west of Frazier Park, California. 

 This prompted me to check on the internet about the current status of that forest and I was

 very surprised to see pictures of devastation of the forest from huge fires that have occurred in

recent years in that area.  This makes it even more important that people replace Pinyon Pine forests wherever they are able to.

These forests were important to the Chumash Indians.  Nearby 8,831-foot high peak Mount Pinos, "Iwihinmu" in the Chumash language, was considered by the Chumash Indians to be the center of the world ("Liyikshup"), the point where everything in life was in balance. Mt. Pinos was not only the highest summit within the region occupied by the Chumash Indians who lived in the area.  The Pinyon Pine forest between Frazier Park and Mt. Pinos to the west historically was an important source of food from the pine nuts for the Chumash Indians in their historic past.

came to know of native pinenuts when we traveled to New Mexico many years ago. 

When we could find them we bought them for ourselves. But we soon learned that our blue and gold macaw, Snickers, had an even

greater passion for fresh native pinenuts.  If she sees me open the cupboard where they are stored she will ask, "wanna cookie?"  This is the universal query for anything that she likes; and native pinenuts are very high on that list! 

Since she has been our beloved friend and companion for almost 18 years we have made a point of seeking out fresh native pinenuts for her in the years when we can find them.  We believe native pinenuts provide an important element in her overall nutrition--they are akin to what her ancestors would have eaten in the wild. 
Should our story be the lucky winner of the pinenuts, we would donate this unique gift to The Gabriel Foundation in Colorado, , to be used as special treats for the  hundreds of abused, neglected, or abandoned parrots that the Gabriel Foundation has rescued and are now in their care. 
Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to share pinenuts with those who might not otherwise enjoy them. 
Suellen and Carl Schwobel--and Snickers
Key West, FL

We liked the spirit of Snickers' Story so much that we sent 5 lbs extra 

She is as beautiful as a rainbow! 

my purdy birdy deserves pine nuts because she fought hard just to stay alive just to get them. She was wild nesting in trees behind our house when a hawk raided her next and down she went. Too young to be on her own. She hid under a bush for weeks as her mommy tried to get her strong till she could fly, by stuffing food down her beak.

The rest of her family, one of about 100 parrots, picked on her, and fought her because she was weak and near death. Often the case in the cruel world of survival where a dying helpless baby parrot attracks preditors putting the rest of the family at risk. After weeks of abuse from her family, neighbor cats and varments. She because weak and nearly gave up, her mommy still trying to keep her alive by stuffing food down her which she could not take anymore, but her mommy would pry open her beak.

When I found her, she was in a clear opening driveway, eyes glazed over, barely breathing and certainly ready to die, she didn't blink,, she didn't care. She had half a beak, few feathers, bleeding with war wounds. Ants covered her body and flies covered her eyes. She didn't blink them away anymore, she could barely breath shallow unsteady respirations. Her eyes were defeated as she stared into me. I was afraid of disease but scooped her up as her mommy tried to defend her with her life.

But probably knowing she was going to die, she didn't stop me as I scooped her up and hurried her to a vet who said to let her die she was almost there. I pried open her beak for 4 days with an eyedropper of medicine. The 5th day she blinked and I saw light. She was too tired to be fearful and over the days and weeks that followed she fought with more moxie everyday she survived another. Her healthcheck was not good but over the weeks and months we have fought. Now, 8 months later, she is healthy and full of the zest only a fighter could know. She is joyful and happy. She has had to be on a strict diet and now is able to have other foods. She has just begun to enjoy veggies and fruits. I would love to see her face with a fresh pinecone in it.

My last vet bill was almost 1000.00 and I hope to pay it off by years end and get her final vaccinations. Her blood tests showed no diseases now and she has a long life ahead of her. I named her ringer because like a boxer in a fight, she wouldn't give up, and neither would her parrot mom or me. Between us all, shes made it and shes the happiest bird in the world. I think she knew her odds and makes the best of every day. When I go back to my old house, her parents come around and the recognition and love is palpable. Ringer deserves something for all her hard work. I have never given her a pine cone with pine nuts inside but I know being a wild bird she'd know what to do. If you send me one, I will video her for you and send it in to post on your website. I know she will be elated. I am enclosing a picture of my little fighter.

Catagory 4   Family Traditions -

 This is the first story we have heard about using the hot springs to free the nuts.

Growing up in Reno, NV--pinenut country--(Fifties) the nuts were like sunflower seeds in other parts of the country. . . Pockets were stuffed with them, back in the day.

Also remember an occasional "harvest" in which my family and I loded burlalp bags with cones and took them to a nearby hot spring to free the nuts.  Our "harvest" was south of Virginia City/ east of Carson.Anyhow, as a kid way back then, p-nuts were THE treat of the season.  And, as an aside, I have a few pinions on my property--a bit slow in growth, however.




Being a fifth generation Nevadan, hunting for Pine nuts was a tradition in our family.  It came with as much excitement and fanfare as any holiday!!
I grew up on a family ranch which had been in my family since the late 1800's.  The ranch was originally purchased by my Great-Grandparents, who grew up in Virginia City after immigrating with my Great Grandfathers parents from Ireland.  Living and growing in Virginia City was an adventure as told by my Grandfather and his ten siblings.  One adventure was that of Pine nut hunting in the Pinion Pine range which was abundant in the surrounding area and was then, their very backyard.  My Great Grandparents would take my Grandfather and his siblings Pine nut hunting shortly after the first frost.  The nut would be collected in burlap (gunne sacks), which were saved from grain.  The sacks would be full of cones and then taken to local hot springs and submerged.  The result was not only loose nuts to be harvested from the bottom of the bag but they were cooked as well!!  The cones were saved and used at home for winter fires.  When the family moved from Virginia City to the ranch at the base of Mount Rose, west of Virginia City, the Pine nut hunting was not as frequent as they had only horses and wagons, making the journey more difficult than when they hunted for nuts in their backyard as they did in Virginia City. They still managed however, during their trips to Virginia City for supplies, making the nuts even more of a treat as the trips were few and far between.
As children, our parents, Grandparents and Great-Grandparents, (of which I grew up with seven elders), passed on their love for the Pinion Pine, their love and respect for the beautiful environment in which we lived and the love for the pine nuts themselves.  Each year, my parents, sister and I gathered with my Grandparents, Great Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins for a day of hunting pine nuts.  We looked forward to this EVERY year!  As kids, we would actually gather the itty bitty nuts dropped by the Pine cones around our property just to have a taste! Naturally, these were far smaller and far less satisfying than the larger nuts we would soon gather, but it was enough to satisfy our craving for the time being until it was time for our annual harvest!! We would get bundled up, my Mom and Grandmothers would pack our lunches, hot chocolate and thermoses of coffee for themselves.  We would save the sacks from our horses grain throughout the year for our trip.  Off we went, loading up the trucks with giggling children and adults alike, off to Pinion Pine range up in the hills of Virginia City.  By the end of the day, covered in sap and full of stories, we would load the bags (usually 8 or ten bags worth at least) and we would head to the Steamboat Hot Springs, at which time was public.  We would drop the sacks in the hot springs, attached to bailing wire and once finished, head to my Grandmothers where we would separate the nuts and cones.  The nuts would get placed into saved coffee cans and distributed amongst everyone.  We would all have dinner together and enjoy the years first batch of nuts!!  A treat to be sure!!  I remember many a fall evening sitting with my Grandmother, watching Carol Burnett, eating nuts, one after the other as if obsessed!!  One night my Grandfather came home and we had finished off a 1 pound can between the two of us..I was only about 7..he laughed and said "You TWO ate ALL of those nuts? I'm going to have to hide them if I hope to have any left for myself!!"
As my own daughters grew, now 19 and 17, I passed on my love for pine nuts and shared what I could of our tradition, albeit different due to homes now overtaking the pinion pine area once hunted in my youth.  I've taught them about Nevada history and the importance of the pine nut to the Native Americans..that these nuts are an enjoyment for them to eat but were a means of survival to those that came before us.  I learned this early through Nevada history in school, from my elders who impressed upon us to appreciate the environment as it's only due to the appreciation of those before us that we could enjoy it now.  My eldest daughter is the most fanatical, being sure to have me seek out nuts at local stores in the fall, hiding and hording them all to herself!  She doesn't like to share! In recent years, the nuts have become more and more scarce in the stores which led me to Goods from the Woods and I couldn't be more pleased to have found a source for incredible Pine nuts and more importantly, having found George and Penny who are conservationist, having the same ideals with regard to the environment as myself and my family. My daughter, now in college and living on her own, ordered 10 pounds...all to herself!!
I have now just recently moved back to a home located on what's left of our families ranch.  In the home I grew up in, across the street from my Grandmothers home where we shared so many wonderful memories and on the same lane as my Dad and two Uncles.  I am surrounded by the mountains and pine trees, just about ten miles from the area where I hunted pine nuts as a child.  I have introduced my husband and son to a life in the mountains and just recently, to pine nuts after ordering from Goods from the Woods.  I knew it was time when I found my 7 year old son on my back deck...gathering and eating the pine nuts which fell from the cones of surrounding pine trees!  What memories came back to was my son, doing the same thing I did at his age, in the same house under the same pine trees.  I ordered the nuts, roasted them and have another fan!  Imagine his surprise when he saw how big the pine nuts were compared to those he had been snacking on from the pine trees! I only wish I could have shared with my children the hunting trips we once enjoyed as children but the range we hunted is not public and neither is the hot springs we used to cook them.  I can share the memories with them though. Memories I will cherish for a lifetime, memories that are renewed each time the smell of the roasting nuts emanates through my home. 
My only remaining Grandparent passed away August 26Th of this year.  Before he passed, one of the many stories we reminisced about was our pine nut trips.  I thought I would be sharing my pine nuts with him at Thanksgiving this year as I have in years past but that will not be. As I sit in the home he helped to build, amongst the trees and land he loved so much and roast the last of my pine nuts, it will be with tremendous thanks for all that he instilled upon me and for the family surrounding me to share the day. 


Cataory 5 Tips, Cooking Information 

This fellow wrote a story that hit almost each category, but we love it because it is the first time anyone has ever written, "how to eat a pine nut"


Pinenuts as a Holiday Heritage
For the past 50 years pinenuts have been a big part of my holiday heritage!  Some of my fondest memories of my childhood are associated with the smell, sights and sounds pinenuts.  At my Grandmother's home at Christmas time, she would roast pinenuts.  Her home was filled with the wonderful scent of pine, the wonderful sight of family and friends having contests of who could shell and eat 10 pinenuts the fastest (you had to bite the pinenut shell in half, take the pine nut out with your tongue and also use your tongue to place one half of the shell inside the other) and the sounds of people cracking pinenuts with their teeth.
Christmas just isn't Christmas without pinenuts. So last year was sad when there were no pinenuts to be found. I ordered early this year and have already enjoyed a few batches. In fact I'm going to go cook up another batch to take to the high school football game tonight and take some over to my Dad's house on Sunday.
If this story has touched your heart please send 5 pounds of pinenuts to my Dad.


I have a recipe for Pineapple-Zucchini-Nut bread that incorporates pinyon nuts that I would like to enter for the contest of receiving 5 pounds of nuts:
Ingredients:3 eggs beaten, 1 cup oil, 2 cups sugar, 2 tsp vanilla, 2 cups shredded zucchini, 1 8.5 ounce can schredded pineapple, 3 cups flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 1.5 tsp cinnamon, .75 tsp nutmeg, 1 cup raisins, and 1 cup pinyon nuts.
Mix ingredients together, and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Makes 3 loaves in 3 by 6 by 2 pans.  Lightly butter top when removed from oven.
Thomas Dence


I would like to submit my pesto pizza recipe.
Pesto:  1/3 c pine nuts
            1/2 c tightly packed fresh basil
            1/4 c each grated parmesan and romano cheese
            4 garlic cloves (or more!)
            1/4 tsp salt
            1/2 c olive oil
Blend above in food processor until smooth.
Spread desired amount of pesto on pizza crust of your choice.  Top with shredded chicken breast pieces, sliced red onion and tomato, chopped canned artichoke hearts, and mozzarella cheese.  (I boil the chicken breast for 5-10 minutes and tear it in to small pieces when cooled.)  Bake pizza at 400 degrees for 12 minutes or follow your crust cooking instructions.
I can't live without this!  We eat it once a week!



Drizzle a small amount of Olive oil and Balsamic Vinegar in frying pan.
Place on low heat; add nuts stir and coat.
Add salt , cook,for 30-45 minutes
The Vinegar gums up and coats the nut shell
It becomes a very tasty snack.


From my previous story on my Dad, the brine recipe is to make a salt
solution, generally 1 cup salt [no idodine or other additives] to 1
gallon water. Mix well. Put pinenuts in. Those that float get thrown
away. Let them soak for at least 24 hours. Take them out, spread on
a screen and let them dry out of the sun. They will taste great and
last a long time. And so much easier to crack open with your teeth!