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We did a second and third trial on shelling hard shell pinon nuts(P. Edulis). This year's crop is simply not as stable which is one factor in doing something different with the harvest. Historically, New Mexico hardshell pinon keep for 3 -4 years when stored properly. The shell is hard, and it protects the nut meat making it a very easy pine nut to handle.
The nuts we picked in Colorado are solid (I still need to clean a very large nut bag of those) but the nuts from the boarder area with UT / New Mexico appear to have to been hybrids. Makes for the taste of the hardshell, with the size of the soft shell. Nice combination, but unexpected issues in quality control.
I had 1 client - great guy - that I agreed to provide a custom order of shelled P. Edulis hardshell. Funny, the things that will push a company to grow and gain skills. (George and I are studying a book which starts with a discussion on diligence). We fiddled around for a couple of hours trying to get our ratio of air speed to mass dialed in and hit it.
The next challenge was stability for shipping. The hard shell do not dehydrate like the soft shell nuts and they require an extra days in the dryer. (all shelled product is washed, shelled, washed again using a 100% natural stabilizing method I learned in organic processing 201. ) Fresh cracked nuts are dried for about 50 minutes to remove surface moisture, then dehydration takes 36 hours @ 110 degrees.
The problem I run into with shelling hardshell is the ratio of shell to nut meats. The smaller the pine nut, the more one has to shell to get a pound and the ratio of shell to good kernel increases dramatically as the size decreases. Thus, the pricing rises to the point of making the hard shell (shelled) a hard sell. By the time the nuts are shelled and dehydrated, I cannot see a price point beyond the $40.00 lb we had offered them in the shell.
We really don't have many hardshell pinon left to shell and sell. I don't know that the shelled hard shell could be profitable absent producer value added processing like candy or another specialty high end product. Of course, with a bumper year, the process could work as harvest costs would drop. Hardshell historically yielded crop harvests in the millions of pounds on a 5 year or so cycle, the destruction of the pinon coupled with(maybe even contributing to) the the changes in percipitation makes bumper crops less and less likely. In 2011 what looked like a bumper crop in 2010 browned out and dropped. Things are not looking good for any of the pinyons for a 2012 harvest.
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This blog is about my passion for a forest, The Great Basin Pinyon Pine Forest in Nevada. Its about how I express passion, through with talking about pine nuts. Tne nuts are forests and when you are eating the pinyon forest, you are helpling to protect it.
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