Many species of Mediterranean woodlands offer edible seeds or fruits. Some of them have been traded since Antiquity, but others are only locally used due to limited supply or to perishability. The most emblematic and valuable gourmet nut gathered in Mediterranean forests is the seed kernel of stone pine (Pinus pinea), the Mediterranean pine nut. The second highly prized wild fruit are chestnuts, the fruits of the sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa), harvested from groves and orchards throughout Mediterranean countries and beyond. Among other wild fruits, blackberries (Rubus spp.), bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus), and raspberries (Rubus spp.) already have an important development as new crops in Southern Europe, following the way of cultivated American blueberry (Vaccinium spp.). However, business opportunities for other berries, such as strawberry tree fruits (Arbutus unedo) are still not widespread.
In the last decades, mechanical harvesting of stone pines by specially adapted tree shakers has reduced costs as well as labour risks of manual harvesting by tree climbers. Recently, first elite clones have been legally registered and released as basic materials for scion production allowing for grafted orchards, with genetic gains estimated in 20-40%, but nurseries must still develop the plant supply chain for marketing high-quality grafted trees. The control of yield losses due to the exotic seed pest Leptoglossus occidentalis is a major challenge for the sector.
The European chestnut is facing new challenges that could be decisive for the future of the sector in Europe, namely diseases like ink (Phytophthora cinnamomi) and blight (Cryphonectria parasitica), the Asian chestnut gall wasp (Dryocosmus kuriphilus), fruit plagues and rot, as well as orchard management issues and the value chain development.
During the celebration of the Scoping Seminars, some work sessions were held to identify the priority themes to focus Wild Nuts & Berries iNet actions:
For the Chestnut value chain, identified themes are:
In case of Mediterranean pine nuts, priority topics are:
For both chestnut and pine nut sectors, finally, the paramount threads are: