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Pinons The piñon pine has been New Mexico's state tree since 1948. The bushy piñon tree grows across 25 million acres in NM and Arizona in dry, rocky soils at high elevations (5,000-8,000 ft). It's a slow growing pine, taking approximately 25 years to bear nuts in it's egg-shaped cones. The piñon pine does not begin to produce nuts in commercial quantities for 75 years, and will continue producing up to 300 years. The height of the tree ranges from 18 to 35 feet, adding only 1/2 an inch to its trunk every 10 years.

After the first frost in September or October, mature cones open and their nuts begin to fall. Indians spread tarps or rugs beneath the trees and shake the branches vigorously to knock the remaining nuts loose. The piñons, stored in burlap bags, are then taken to the traders for sale or exchange for other goods.

The piñon nut has a high protein content. There are 2,880 calories in a pound of nuts. The Indians called the piñon 'starvation nuts' since they often became the staple food when crops were scarce. Archaeologists often find evidence of the piñons in excavations of pueblos and cliff dwelling ruins.

Popular belief is that piñon bumper crops occur every 7 years, but much depends on the climatic conditions, especially the rainfall levels.