All about nuts

Almonds, Nuts, Hazelnuts, Mixed Nuts

Since the earliest of time and even before agriculture was used by the Greeks to have better food resources,’Nuts’ were a stable food and nutritional source in the diet of manhood in the dark ages. During these times, nuts were plentiful, as there were much more forests as today, and well liked for their simple storage, which allowed people to keep them for occasions in which food was hard to find.

Nuts have their place in all cultures and throughout just about all cuisine around the world. Nuts are liked by people of all ages because of their subtle flavor and higher fat and carbohydrate content. It’s this subtle taste that Chefs like when creating new dishes and variants.

DESCRIPTION & SPECIES

Under the category nuts, we know anything from a seed into a legume or tuber. The peanut, for instance, is a legume, the Brazil nut and macadamia nut are seeds and almonds are the seed of a fruit similar to a peach.

Botanically nuts are single seeded fruits with a hard or leathery shell that have a edible kernel, which is enclosed in a soft inner skin.

Typically, all nut trees grow slowly but live long.

Nut trees of any species have been found throughout the world. Almonds for example are found in California, Spain, Morocco, Italy and even Australia, where as the walnut can be located anywhere from North America to the Andes and Persia to Australia. Asia also has a great variety of nuts. Ginkgo nuts in China, candle nuts in Indonesia and Malaysia, coconut in throughout southern Asia, cashew nuts in India and Malaysia and the Philippines, chestnuts in China and Japan, along with the water chestnut which is located in China, Japan, Korea and the East Indies.

ALMOND

Scientist consider the almond as a stone fruit, much like cherries, peaches and prunes.

Because most people only know the seed (stone) of the fruit, it’s usually accepted as a nut.

Almond on the tree, look like small green peaches. When ripe the shell will open and show the nut in its shell.

There are numerous varieties of almonds.

The bitter almond is in fact the kernel of the apricot, which was found growing wild in China as far back as the late Tang Dynasty (AD 619-907).

This exact same apricot was taken to Europe and became the apricot fruit, which is now enjoyed all over the world. The bitter almond kernel is toxic in its raw state and must be boiled quickly and poached in a oven before being further utilized. It’s primarily utilized in Chinese desserts like the almond bean curd.

The sweet almond is generally limited for fresh consumption. In 1986, California alone made 70,000 tons of almonds, which is half of the world’s manufacturing. The almond has been cultivated around the Mediterranean since ancient times and can still be found wild in Algeria and around the black sea. Sweet almonds can be bought whole, shelled, cut 1/2 with skin, without skin, flaked, blanched, slivered ground roasted or salted. They are used for snacks, marzipan, confectionery, and desserts as well as for the production of liqueur nature, oil and cosmetic products.

The bunya bunya tree is a member of the pine family and grows almost everywhere in Australia. Initially the trees originated in the area of Brisbane and Rockhampton in Queensland Australia. Only the female trees are producing a 2cm x 2.5cm nut in the pinecone.

In the old days, the bunya bunya pine nuts were steady meals for the aborigines and also used in ceremonials. These days, the nuts gain in popularity throughout the trend of native food in Australia (bush food) in the past few years.

The nut is loaded is carbohydrate, similar to the chestnut, and therefore used more like a potato than a nut. The bunya bunya nuts can be eaten raw but are usually boiled for easy removing of the skin. Shelled nuts are then butter fried and flavored with sugar or pepper, or added to stews and soups.

RED BOPPLE NUT

The nut is about the exact same size as a hazelnut and has a thick (0.5cm 0 1cm), woody husk with a bright red outer skin, which only appears if the nut is fully ripe.

In contrary to most other nuts, the reddish bopple nut is very low on fat, but very high in potassium and calcium. The low fat content make this nut very easy digestible. The nuts are eaten raw or toasted.

COCONUT

“He who plants a coconut tree”, the saying goes,”plants food and drink, vessels and clothing, a habitation for himself and a heritage for his children”. Indeed every part of the coconut is used, but only the coconut milk and the coconut meat are foods. The shell is used as charcoal, the husk is used to make ropes, clothing and brushes, and the trunk of the tree and leaves are used for roofs of houses and building material .

The fruit of the hands’cocos nucifera’ has an edible kernel and so qualifies as a nut. Coconut palms grow best close to the seaside but have been demonstrated to withstand high elevation, although the production rate is diminishing as farther away from the sea the tree grows.

The big thick green pod encloses a brown fibrous husk around a brown shell, which contains a layer of soft white flesh and the clear water in the middle. Sub-species found only on a single island of the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean, produces a nut often weighing more than 20 kg, which needs 10 years to ripen.

Coconuts are the worlds most commercially utilized nuts. Notably the meat, or copra, as it is called after sun drying, is vital for its export industries, in coconut growing countries. The coconut is a important food source particularly in South East Asia, India, Brazil and the South Pacific Islands.

The copra can be brought shredded or desiccated and can be used in confectioneries, ice creams and to coat chicken or fish for frying. However much of it is pressed for its oil also called coconut butter as it is white and fatty at room temperature. Not only can it be used for cooking and to make margarine, but it also goes to soaps, detergents, shampoos, face cream, candles and perfumes.

It is also a major ingredient in glycerin, synthetic rubber, security glass and hydraulic brake fluid. Coconut juice or milk is the natural juice of the nut, but not the water in the coconut. It’s won by shredding the raw coconut milk, then adding water and straining the mixture through a cotton cloth. The coconut milk has the consistency and color of skim milk and is available canned or frozen.

CANDLE NUT

More recently, the nuts were grounded to a paste, mixed with copra (grated coconut milk ) and ten shaped into a candle.

Candlenuts would be the seed of the candle berry tree indigenous to Indonesia and Malaysia but broadly spread throughout south East Asia, the South Pacific and Sri Lanka.

The nut has a very significant content on fat and is valued for the extracted oil for lighting as well as cooking. The nut is colored grey to black, about 5cm in diameter, with a thin, papery husk containing one or two nuts.

Candlenut oil for lighting purposes is extracted by roasting the nuts when they’re only half ripe as oil for cooking is extracted from roasting the nuts when they are fully ripe. For human consumption, the nuts need to be roasted as uncooked once have been inducing sicknesses.

Ripe candle nuts are roasted, then pounded into a meal and mixed with salt, chilies or shrimp paste for usage in curries or as a spicy condiment to curries. Traditionally, the Javanese have roasted the nuts for eating in the whole.

PALM NUT

The palmyra palm native to most South East Asian Countries produces a hard, shiny nut, from which a sweetish gel or sap is extracted. While this sap is used in the Indonesian cuisine for desserts and sauces, it is on other recognized product that’s begin produced from the palmyra palm – The Palm Sugar (gula melacca).

There are not reliable data available on the nutritional value of the palm nut, but it is widely known that the fat is saturated.

MACADAMIA NUT

Native to Queensland and New South Wales in Australia, the macadamia nut takes its name from Dr John McAdam, a scientist and early promoter of the cultivation Australia.

The macadamia trees are evergreen and reach a height of up to 20 meters. The edible seed of the silk oat tree has a very hard, light brown shell, 2 – 3cm in diameter.

In 1888, macadamia trees have been planted in Hawaii where through careful cloning and hybridization, it became an important commercial product.

Today, macadamia nuts are also cultivated in South Africa, Zimbabwe, California and parts of South and Central America.

It is quite difficult to crack the macadamia nut since it’s shell is very hard and so tight to the kernel that if cracked the nut is smashed. In Hawaii, American scientist developed a means of separating the kernel from the shell by shrinking them in drying bins. They then developed the first business cracker. It was through both of these improvements that the macadamia nut could be formed to the commercial importance it has today.

This is also the reason macadamia nuts are just available already de-shelled. Macadamia nuts are also valued for their oil and the macadamia nut butter.

They are available roasted and salted. When purchasing macadamia nuts, give care they are packed in a air tight or vacuum bags, as they become readily rancid once opened.

Macadamia nuts are used for confectioneries or as snacks, but also gain in popularity in the kitchen because they have a very delicate and subtle taste and add texture to salads, and hot dishes. It is oil makes excellent vinaigrette and cold sauces.

WATER CHESTNUTS

The name refers to a nut like tuber of a aquatic plant named Trapa. The plants are common to several parts of the world, but are mainly utilized in Japan, China and Thailand where it is also a sought after ingredient in it’s cuisines.

The trapa plant roots in ponds and lakes and sends, its’ leaves to the surface, similar to a water lily. The water chestnut grows on the roots beneath the surface. Water chestnuts are flat and round with a diameter of 5 – 7cm. They’ve a soft black skin and white flesh like the flesh of a coconut. Water chestnuts can also be boiled and made into flour, which can be used for thickening of sauces and dishes, similar to cornstarch.

CHESTNUT

Chestnuts are considered to have originated in Southern Europe and Persia even though they are also found in China, Japan and Northern America.

Chestnuts are the only nuts, which can be treated like a vegetable since they contain more starch (30 percent ) and less fat .

Chestnuts are also made into a flour high on starch and fiber.

CASHEW NUT

Originating from the West Indies and native to the north of Brazil, Portuguese explorers introduced the nut to India and Malaysia and parts of Africa.

The hard-shelled nut grows within the cashew apple. When mature the cashew nut appears at the end of the red or yellow apple. The cashew tree is a member of the poison ivy family and farmers must take great precautions when extracting the nuts. The smoke and steam, which happens however may still be harmful to eyes and skin. When heated the cashew nuts are benign and may be extracted.

GINKGO NUT

The ginkgo is the prehistoric maidenhair tree, which survives as a wild tree only in China.

The fruit resembles a tiny plum but has a foul and bitter shell. The Chinese wait for the smelly hull to complete off, then paint the nuts and use them for festive decorations, before they crack them open to eat the nut. In China, the ginkgo nut is a popular ingredient to vegetarian dishes. The nuts are available canned or fresh.

HAZELNUT/FILBERTS

The nut of the hazel bush is native to Europe and North America and has been mentioned in writings as far back as 2838 B.C., and was credited of currying many human ills as well as being considered outstanding for Boldness and use as a hair tonic. Some say that the title filbert comes from Saint Philibert, a French abbot whose feast day on 22 August coincides with the ripening of the initial nuts in the Northern hemisphere.

Hazelnuts have a very hard shell, which has to be deciphered by a nutcracker before getting to the kernel.

PEANUT

The peanut isn’t a true nut. It’s the seed of a leguminous plant with a soft, brown colored brittle shell and belong to the Botanical family of beans and peas. But they’re typically considered in addition to the nuts because of they’re physical characteristics and nutritional value. The nuts grow on the long roots of the plant and beneath the ground. The peanut is native to Brazil and has been found there ever since the very first recording in 950 B.C..

Today, peanuts are cultivated throughout the tropics all around the world (India, China, West Africa, Australia and the USA are the largest peanut growing nations ). Peanuts are available whole, de-shelled and de-skinned and raw or toasted.

PINENUT

Pine trees are located in the Southern USA, Mexico and around the Mediterranean sea. It is quite difficult to establish a pinenut industry as the trees are growing very slow and do not carry a good deal of fruits until they’re 75 years old.

Pine nuts are largely obtained raw and then toasted, grilled or fried. Pine nut flour is used in confectionery.

PISTACHIO NUT

The pistachio nut is a small green kernel, which grows on the pistachio tree originating in Syria, Palestine and Persia.

The natural color of the shell is grayish white, but some times the blossoms are dyed red to cover some of the staining.

The pistachio nut is now cultivated in India, Europe, North Africa, Mexico, the USA and the Far East. Pistachios are usually marketed in their shell or shelled and blanched.

The greenish seed is used as flavoring in cooking, candies and ice cream.

WALNUT

English walnuts, butternuts and hickory nuts are all walnuts, botanical talking. All those walnuts have various shells and kernels but the English walnut with it’s rough, rippled shell and yellow brown kernel is the most popular and popularly referred to as’The Walnut’.

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