I know it is autumn here when the pinhão starts falling from the araucária tree. I have an araucária tree right in front of my house and when the pinhão starts to fall, my deck becomes littered with these brown chestnut like nuts and there is a constant rain of them for weeks. From a distance you can often here them falling in the woods and almost everywhere you go the ground is littered with them.
Although temperatures do drop a little bit during winter here, no leaves on the trees change their color and everything remains green, although as the winter months drag on a little the grasses begin to turn brown and the trees lose their brilliant green because of a lack of water. But, all of these winter changes are subtle. The real indicator that autumn is here and winter is soon starting is the falling pinhão.
The pinhão is the seed from the aruacária tree (see my post about the aruacária tree HERE), a pine tree that can be found in southern Brazil, Chile and Australia. The seed begins growing in a tight green ball in about February or March, it continues to grow throughout the year. The next March and beginning of April these seeds turn a beautiful brown and as they continue to expand, eventually their seed ball bursts and the seeds fall to the ground.
The seeds or pinhão as it is called here in Brazil is like a chestnut. It has a woody outside layer and inside is a soft, starchy, nut. When boiled they becoming this lovely soft nut that is a great addition to any kind of dish.
Every year I make sure that I gather some pinhão and, besides eating them straight out of the pan, I add them to rice, stir fries or even make gnocchi with them. They keep for several months, so it is always nice to get a good collection in the house to boil-up whenever you want.
Because you cannot find pinhão for sale in the USA I will not share a recipe. But instead leave you with some pictures of this beautiful nut.
If you are ever in the south of Brazil in March or April make sure to look out for these!