A prominent feature of the Italian landscape is the Stone Pine. I find my attention constantly drawn to these remarkable trees whenever we are out and about traveling. I first remember spying the Stone Pine from our bus window as we traveled from the Rome airport to Castiglion Fiorentino. Not knowing what they were at the time, I excitedly shouted “Look!” and tugged on my friend Jill’s sleeve to point them out.
In the family Pinaceae, these massive trees are commonly called the Umbrella Pine, which accurately describes them because of the canopy-like braches. The Italian Stone Pine is an evergreen tree reaching approximately 25 feet in height and native to the Middle East in the Mediterranean region. However, the most intriguing fact I learned about the Stone Pine is that they hold agricultural value because they produce edible pine nuts! Interestingly enough, these pine nuts have been collected and consumed since prehistoric times.
My favorite way to eat pine nuts is in pesto, which is a basil and cheese sauce/spread. During the class lecture on woody crops Dr. Lombardini shared a recipe for pesto that I am excited to try once I return home. Most recently, I had pine nuts in a type of lemon cake that was made here at Santa Chiara one night for desert. Like all the other food here at Santa Chiara, it was amazing and I enjoyed tasting pine nuts in a sweeter setting.
Agriculture is everywhere and it is truly inspiring to see, learn about, and especially taste. So until next time, with a full mind and happy stomach, grazie and gig 'em!