When we visited Italy in 2003, we stayed in Rome for two weeks. Rather than spending a few days in each city, packing and unpacking, traveling, getting used to a new hotel room, we opted to become residents of Rome. It was a wise decision.
One of the more interesting things we saw were the unusual trees in the hills surrounding the city. They looked like giant umbrellas. When we got home I did a search for them on the Internet. It turns out that they were pine trees -- very different from the cone-shaped ones you see here in Northern Virginia.
The stone pine tree is the source of those great pine nuts they use in traditional Italian pasta dishes. But there has been a problem with pine nuts lately. (Google "pine mouth syndrome" for the details.) it turns out that a lot of the pine nuts sold in America now come from China, and some may be coming from trees whose seeds are not edible. So what better excuse for growing my own pine nuts?
The Italian Stone Pine tree (pinus pinea) is native to parts of Europe and can be found in the warmer areas of North America. But could I grow some in Northern Virginia?.
Seems that this is easier said than done. None of the local nurseries had stone pine trees, so I turned to the Internet. No problem, I could order as many tree seeds as I wanted. Where would we be without the Internet?
But you don't just run out to the garden and plant these seeds in the ground. There's a whole procedure you have to follow. First you soak the seeds in water for 24 hours. That's to soften up the shell that surrounds the seed. Then you pack the seeds in wet peat moss in a Ziploc bag and put them in the refrigerator for 60 days.
At that point it was spring and time to see if any of the seeds had sprouted. It didn't look like it, but I put them in pots just in case. Out of the ten seeds I started with, two actually sprouted. Being as they are Italian pine trees, I named them Marcello and Angelina.
They'll probably spend a year or two in the pots before they are big enough to put into the earth. When fully grown, they can reach a height of 80 feet and a crown width of over 100 feet. It will be a real sight for our neighbors.
Pictures here were taken with my Sony DSC-F707 and DSC-R1, and with my trusty Panasonic DMC-FZ18 and DMC-FZ35.
Update 2014. Unfortunately, we had a really rough winter going into 2014. The baby pine trees in their outdoor pots didn't make it through the winter. Another dream dies aborning.