We have come to rely on a magnificent specimen of nature for maintaining healthy bodily systems – the Siberian Pine – which produces the nuts from which Pine Nut Oil is extracted.
It is both entrancing and striking to catch a sight of Siberian pine or co-called cedar trees. Their mighty chocolate-coloured trunks, several arm-spans in circumference, are framed by long, soft dark-green needles, and topped, 30m above the ground, by a spreading, cone-strewn crown.
The Siberian pine is a member of the pine family and may have been named by the Christian Cossacks who opened up Siberia in 1581. Enchanted by the beauty of the trees they may have called them Siberian cedars because they resembled the real cedar, which they knew of by hearsay and Biblical references to a pleasant resiny scent and majestic appearance.
For centuries, life, material and spiritual culture in Obdoria, as the ‘eastern land beyond the Urals’ was called in ancient times, were closely linked to the Siberian pine.
For the inhabitants it was the ‘cow-tree’ and the ‘mother-tree’, for from the cedar nuts they could get milk, cream and oil. Siberia is the homeland of the Siberian pine and the tree does not exist in any other countries apart from Mongolia and Kazakhstan, in small pockets close to the frontiers. The Altai is viewed as the Siberian pine’s cradle, its genetic centre. During the glacial period the mountains of the Altai were one of its last refuges on Earth; it survived and spread throughout Siberia. Giant trees, 45 metres high and 2.4 metres in diameter, at least 800–850 years old, have been discovered in the forests of the north-eastern Altai. Our oil comes directly from Altai region of Siberia.
The cedar grows very slowly. During its first 5–7 years it reaches 20–24 cm; it only starts producing cones at 40–70 years, reaching maturity at 200–250 years.
That makes today’s 500-year-old cedars living historical monuments. They were young when Ivan the Terrible came to the throne in the 1540s, they started producing cones as Yermak began the conquest of Siberia in the 1580s, reached the peak of their fruitfulness under Peter the Great at the start of the 18th century, and yielded rich harvests a century later under Catherine the Great.
They were contemporaries of the great writers Pushkin, Turgenev and Tolstoy, who spanned the 19th century.
More about these incredible trees in the next post…