Siberian pines (cedar) are part of the pine family, but they don’t produce pine nuts at regular intervals.

With optimum ecological circumstances there will be 14 good and plentiful harvests in two decades, with average nut production 200–300 kilos per hectare.

Pine nuts have been collected in Russia since time immemorial. Siberian peasants would often go off into the taiga (forest) and live in huts, hunting and collecting berries and mushrooms as they waited for the period when ‘cones come by themselves’.

With the first frosts and wind accompanied by rain the cones would fall, to be collected and processed. Even now experienced tree-climbers knock cones down by tapping gently with a long rod on the branches of the crown. A gentle tap makes ripe cones fall, whilst the immature ones which will ripen in the following year and cone-bearing branches remain undamaged.

Tree-climbers ensure the bark is not damaged by wrapping a rope around themselves and the tree – this is how they reach the height of a 7–9 storey building!

Bears are not so careful… nor patient. They sometimes climb to the upper crowns seeking the delicacy. The fragile top may fail to support the weight and break, often ending in tragedy for the bear. However, such greed can benefit the tree – if two tops replace the top branch they produce even more cones.

Cedar nuts were a valuable economic resource in Russia and when the trans-Siberian railway was planned at the end of the 19th century, they made up a seventh of goods transported and between 1899-1908 almost 3,000 tonnes was transported annually.

They remain a precious, natural, delicious and sought-after resource.

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