Collecting cedar nuts is true seasonal labour and is a means of earning a living that often involves whole families. Siberians, therefore, are all the more pleased with the current and growing popularity of their natural product. Harvesting is a not a simple process. Provisions, tents, and tools have to be packed and transported to the collection area by horse, motorcycle, and even by tractor. Navigable roads in the Taiga are rare, and, for the most part, the harvest rich forest region remains many kilometres removed from such routes. In addition, the Altai region harvest grounds are often found on mountain slopes. Everything has to be carried by back to the camping grounds, and after a few weeks, usually after the first snowfall, the harvesters pull up stakes and return the same way. Besides their equipment, they now have to carry back many heavy sacks full of cedar nuts.
Harvest usually takes place during the dry days of September and October, and the nuts are collected directly from the forest floor. Work often commences after powerful winds shake many cedar cones to the ground, allowing harvesters to sort them easier. Sacks fill quickly when the harvest is good. Otherwise, the Siberians must travel further (and higher) into the remote cedar groves, and the return trip becomes that much more difficult. In order not to have to carry an unnecessary burden, a special hand instrument is used to remove the cedar nuts from the cones. A more thorough cleaning to remove cone residue is conducted later at the campgrounds.
After many weeks of harvesting, the big day finally arrives. It is time to carry the sacks over kilometre-long stretches of forest to the transport vehicles. Not until after arriving back home, at the grain storage area, does the final sorting take place. The nuts are first cleaned from dust and chafe. Then the cedar nuts (still in their shell) are spread out in a well-ventilated room and dried. Only then can the nuts be stored or sold to dealers. And then it is usually back to the woods again - off to collect more nuts…
The nuts still remain a long way off from being ready to eat. The next stage is shelling, which takes place in the city. Siberia is home to the few factories specializing in this area of production. Up until the 1990s, cedar nuts were almost exclusively consumed in Siberia, as there were practically no shelling machines available. Appropriate technology was only developed since the introduction of the market economy. The cedar nuts are first washed and dried. Then, a special forced air apparatus hurls them against metal walls, breaking the shell upon impact. The nut kernel is soft, and it is not easy to minimize the percentage of broken nuts. Separated from their shells, the cedar nuts (or cedar nut kernels) are dried once more and screened according to size. The largest are usually sold as kernels, while the smaller nuts are further processed.
Once again, a time and energy consuming sorting by hand is required. Brown and broken nuts are removed. A portion of the nut kernels can now be packed for shipping. Siberia's number one natural product, the Siberian cedar nut, is finally ready for the consumer. The remainder of the cedar nut harvest is used to produce cedar flour, a nutritious foodstuff, and cedar oil, which is won through an age-old cold press process. Russian Old Believers used make cedar oil with cedar wood presses, accompanying their work with prayer. By-products of the pressing process, such as cedar nut pulp and oil veneer, find a use in industry and the food sector.