The araucaria pine nut, or pinhão, is the seed of Araucaria angustifolia. These tall trees, which can live up to 500 years, have been feeding the inhabitants of Southern Brazil for centuries.
Each winter, these trees drop large, round pinecones that break apart on the ground and spill the seeds inside. During the colder months, the indigenous Kaingang populations of Santa Catarina, Paraná, and Rio Grande do Sul capitalized on the seasonal bounty by eating peeled, fire-roasted seeds. Some modern diners compare their flavor to roasted chestnuts.
Today, pinhão makes its way into a variety of meals, including paçoca de pinhão, which mixes sliced pine nuts with minced meat, and entrevero, a stew consisting of seeds, vegetables, and cured meat. Ground into flour, pinhão even appears in cakes.
Unfortunately, timber businesses have been replacing the area’s araucaria trees with Canadian pine. Today, one percent of the original araucaria forest remains. To protect the population, the government has imposed limits on seed collection, making the former plentiful staple into a coveted commodity.
Need to Know
During winters in Brazil (May through August), you'll find roadside stands selling pinhão in the states of Santa Catarina, Paraná, and Rio Grande do Sul.
Where to Try It
Festa Nacional de PinhãoAv. Luís de Camões, 2330, Conta Dinheiro, Lages , 88520-000, Brazil
The annual festival celebrates the humble seed. Check their website for upcoming dates (www.festadopinhao.com).