Stone pines, otherwise known as umbrella pines, parasol pines, pignolia nut pines (I’ve even heard one called a “potato pine” by Jobe of Eddie’s fun tours) are to me a symbol of Lazio, probably along with the cypresses, which for me are more a symbol of Tuscany.
Anyway, here are some in central Rome, near the aqueduct:
They make great shade, but even better pine nuts, which have been used as a food by humans for some 6000 years I’ve read.
But then again:
The piñon pine (Pinus edulis or P. monophylla) is the New Mexico state tree, and it is especially pungent in the fall of the year, when hundreds of New Mexicans drive up into the arid mountain forests to harvest the pine nut, a main ingredient in some versions of pesto, and a subsistence crop that has been part of the diet of people of the American Southwest and Great Basin for at least 7,500 years. ~ Pine Nuts and Archaeology
So, let’s just say that humans have been exploiting pine trees for quite a long while.
If you have had dishes with pine nuts in Europe, they probably came from the Italian stone pine. They are called pignoli or pinoli and were used at least as far back as the Roman Empire. It is one of a few pine tree species from which these seeds are harvested for eating. ~ Growing the Italian Stone Pine – Pinus pinea
So now you know. They’re not just for shade, or lining the walkways like they do in the walled orange garden on Rome’s Aventine hill where you get that dynamite view of the historic center of Rome.
I like to cook pine nuts with butter until both brown and then I pour the mixture over some brie and put the whole mess in the oven until the cheese softens. It scares people on account of the fat content, so I usually get to finish it myself.