The Times podcast: A matter of a piñon

Piñon nuts beside a jar
An almost finished jar of green chile-spiced piñon nuts.
(Gustavo Arellano / Los Angeles Times)

Tall, bushy, spiny and fragrant, the pinyon pine is a beloved feature of the Mountain West — and not just for its beauty. The tiny piñon nuts in the tree’s cones are so good, people in the region have eaten them every fall for countless generations. But as climate change continues to affect the United States, something terrible is happening. The piñon harvest is getting smaller and smaller.

Today we go to New Mexico, where the pinyon is the state’s official tree. We talk to Axios race and justice reporter Russell Contreras, who’s based out of Albuquerque and has an up-close view of the piñon’s slow disappearance. And a native New Mexican tells us about the nut and tree’s cultural importance.


Host: Gustavo Arellano

Guests: Axios race and justice reporter Russell Contreras and Smithsonian Institution American Women’s History Initiative director Tey Marianna Nunn

More reading:

Op-Ed: Pinyon and juniper woodlands define the West. Why is the BLM turning them to mulch?

Locally foraged piñon nuts are cherished in New Mexico. They’re also disappearing

Pine nut recipes: From small seeds, inspiration

About The Times

“The Times” is made by columnist Gustavo Arellano, senior producer Denise Guerra and producers Shannon Lin, Melissa Kaplan and Ashlea Brown. Our engineer is Mario Diaz. Our editors are Lauren Raab and Shani O. Hilton. Our theme song was composed by Andrew Eapen.