There are two worlds in Lebanon: The urban world and the rural world. While Beirut residents would go out for sushi or burgers (American-style), rural folks scavenge nature for food and sustenance. Take the pine cones, for instance. I never knew until recently that the green ones were edible. Lebanese farmers in the fields like to scrape them (the outer husk is tough) and dip the tender pine nuts in salt. This is a mezze (appetizer), one of the simplest ones in the Lebanese mountains, usually served with a glass of arak (anise-flavored drink), also made locally.
I asked Salah, an Egyptian farmer residing in Lebanon for years, if he had tasted them. He said “sure, and folks here always have it with a drink!”; he proceeded to dislodge a couple he spotted on a pine tree nearby. Then he quickly snatched off the outer husk with his teeth (made of iron no doubt), and showed me the fresh and still tender pine nuts inside.
- 1 or more pine cones, still green
- salt, to taste
- 1 lemon quarter (optional)
1. With a sharp knife, peel the tough outer husk of the pine cone. Slice off thin slivers of the inside pulp and dip in salt. Serve at room temperature with a drink.