A description of green cone pinon nut harvesting.

Indian use of Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands

Originally titled – Role of Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands in Aboriginal Societies of the Desert West
Joel C. Janetski

Gathering of Pine Nuts

Pine nuts were usually gathered in the early fall at about the time of the first frosts. Two methods were employed: green or brown cone harvesting (see Madsen 1986). The former took place before the cones opened. The green cones were either removed from branches using a hook or sometimes branches containing cones were broken off the tree. Once removed the sticky cones were placed in pits and roasted until the cones began to open. They were then pulled out of the fire with sticks, cooled, and opened, and the nuts were removed and tossed in a heap. A graphic account of pine nut harvesting by the green cone method is supplied by Howard Egan in western Nevada in the late 1800’s.

Jack and I were taking a scouting trip high up in the Schell Creek Range of mountains, when we came across an Indian who, with his [wife) and children were busily engaged gathering pine nuts. The man had a long pole with a strong hook fastened to one end. He would reach up in the tree to the pine cones, hook the crook around the branch on which they hung and pull branch and all down, the woman and children carrying them to a place and piling them up in a heap. When they had collected as many as they wanted that day, the [man) has finished his part of the work and could pass the rest of the time sleeping or hunting squirrels just as he pleased.

The women and children gathered a little dry brush which was thrown loosely over the pile of cones and set fire to. The cones are thickly covered all over with pitch, for this reason they make a hot fire, the [woman) watching and stirring it up as needed to keep the nuts from burning, as she rakes them back from the fire as a man would do when drawing charcoal.

When the pitch was all burned off the burs or cones, the [woman) spreads a blanket down close to the pile, then taking up one cone at a time, would press them end ways between her hands, which opens the leaves, under which there were two nuts to every leaf, Then shaking the cones over the blanket area the nuts would all fall out as clean as you please.

When the nuts had all been cleaned from the cones they were put in a large basket that would hold over two bushels and was nearly; full, the [woman) carrying that on her back to a place where they were placed all through the pine-nut grove to save carrying them too far and save time for the harvest does not last long, for a heavy frost will cause the cones to open and the nuts to fall to the ground (Egan 1917:241).

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