The Pinyon Pine is a majestic, slow growing evergreen nut tree that is exceptionally long lived (at up to 1000 years this really is a tree for the future!). The cones contain edible pine nuts which are sold commercially as a native food. The small nuts are highly valued for their culinary and nutritional qualities and are a primary ingredient in making pesto. Their flavor is buttery, mild and sweet with slight notes of citrus. The nuts are especially rich in mono-unsaturated fatty acids that helps to lower LDL or "bad cholesterol" and increases HDL or "good-cholesterol" in the blood. Additionally, they contain numerous health promoting phyto-chemicals, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals. Pine nuts can occasionally cause a condition known as Pine Mouth with causes other foods to taste bitter for up to a couple days. The cause of this condition is unknown and seems to be a random problem that is only caused by certain batches of pine nuts.
The Pinyon Pine is a beautiful, densely foliaged small pine that is especially well suited for rock gardens and xeriscaping. They are bushy and symmetrical when young, maturing into a spreading tree with a rounded or flat crown. They have attractive needled foliage, one to two inches long, usually curved with a delicate blue-grey coloration. The color and soft texture, along with exceptional drought hardiness, make the Pinyon Pine a highly desirable addition to ornamental gardens.
Environment and Culture
The Pinyon Pine is a native of the Southwest, and has a wide range from Texas through California. Their seeds were extensively collected by Native Americans and are still a highly prized food for both humans and wildlife. They will grow well with both Oregon White Oak and California Black Oak. They will also benefit from a companion planting with either the Red Stem Ceanothus or the Blue Blossom Ceanothus. The large cones will attract chipmunks, squirrels and Jays who all favor the nuts and promote the establishment of new stands.
Harvest, Care, and Preparation
The Pinyon Pine is very slow growing and in most conditions will need almost no attention. Light pruning to direct growth and water during establishment may be necessary, after establishment they rarely need attention as they are extremely drought tolerant. However they will not grow well in heavy, saturated soils. Unlike the California Foothill Pine, the Pinyon cones do not readily drop their seeds, thus it is necessary to use a pole to knock down the large cones after they ripen. The nuts can be eaten raw or cooked and pair well with both sweet and savory dishes. A light toasting helps to bring out their flavor.
Native Range: CA, CO, AZ, TX, NM, WY, UT
USDA zones: 1-11
Ease of Care: Easy
Deer Resistance: High
Light Requirements: Full Sun
Soil Type: Light to Medium, especially prefers rocky, well drained soils
Water Requirements: Low, the most drought tolerant of all the pines.