All about Nuts

Almonds, Nuts, Roasted, Salted

Since the earliest of time and even before agriculture was used by the Greeks to have better food sources,’Nuts’ were a stable food and nutritional source in the diet of manhood in the dark ages. During those times, nuts were plentiful, as there were much more woods as today, and well liked for their simple storage, which allowed people to keep them for times where food was hard to discover. (Winter, rainy season, etc)

There’s evidence that as far back as the second century B.C., the Romans spread sugar almonds on special occasions such as marriages and births.

Nuts have their place in all cultures and throughout almost all cuisine around the world. Nuts are enjoyed by people of all ages because of their subtle flavor and higher fat and carbohydrate content. It is this subtle taste that Chefs like when creating new dishes and variations.

DESCRIPTION & SPECIES

Under the group nuts, we know anything from a seed to 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 like a peach.

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

Nut trees of any species are found all over the world. Almonds for example are found in California, Spain, Morocco, Italy as well as Australia, where as the walnut can be found 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 found 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 this 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 various varieties of almonds.

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

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

The sweet almond is usually confined for fresh consumption. In 1986, California alone produced 70,000 tons of almonds, which is half of the world’s production. The almond has been cultivated around the Mediterranean since ancient times and may still be found wild in Algeria and around the black sea. They’re used for snacks, marzipan, confectionery, and desserts as well as for the production of liqueur nature, oil and cosmetic products.

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 at the pinecone.

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

The nut is rich 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 skin. Shelled nuts are then butter fried and flavored with pepper or sugar, or added to stews and soups.

RED BOPPLE NUT

The reddish bopple nuts are a relative of the macadamia nut, and native to the tropical rain forest of the East Coast of Australia.

In contrary to most other nuts, the red 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

Truly 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, brushes and clothing, and the back of the tree and leaves are used for roofs of houses and building material respectively.

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

The large thick green pod encloses a brown fibrous husk around a brown shell, which comprises a layer of soft white flesh and the crystal clear water in the middle. Sub-species found only on one island of the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean, produces a nut often weighing over 20 kg, which requires 10 years to ripen.

Coconuts are the worlds most commercially employed 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 significant 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 because of its oil also called coconut butter because it’s white and fatty at room temperature. Not only can it be used for cooking and to make margarine, but in addition, it goes to soaps, detergents, shampoos, face lotion, perfumes and candles.

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 is won by shredding the raw coconut meat, then adding water and straining the mixture through a cotton cloth. The coconut milk has then 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 formed into a candle.

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

The nut has a very significant content on fat and is appreciated for the extracted oil for lighting in addition to cooking. The nut is colored gray to black, about 5cm in diameter, with a thin, papery husk containing a couple of nuts.

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

Ripe candle nuts are roasted, then pounded into a meal and mixed with salt, chilies or shrimp paste for use in curries or as a spicy condiment into curries.

PALM NUT

The palmyra palm native to many South East Asian Countries creates a tough, shiny nut, from which a sweetish sap or gel is extracted. While this sap is used at the Indonesian cuisine for desserts and sauces, it is on other well known product that’s begin produced out of the palmyra palm – The Palm Sugar (gula melacca).

There aren’t reliable data available on the nutritional value of the palm nut, but it’s widely known that the fat is saturated.

MACADAMIA NUT

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

The macadamia trees are evergreen and reach a height of around 20 meters.

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

It’s quite difficult to crack the macadamia nut as it’s shell is very hard and so tight into the kernel that when cracked the nut is smashed. In Hawaii, American scientist developed a way of separating the kernel in the shell by shrinking them in drying bins. Then they developed the first commercial cracker. It was through these two 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 also are 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 easily 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 gentle and subtle taste and add texture to salads, and hot dishes. It’s oil makes excellent vinaigrette and cold sauces.

WATER CHESTNUTS

The title refers to a nut like tuber of a aquatic plant called Trapa. The crops are common to several areas of the world, but are mainly utilized in Japan, China and Thailand where it is also a sought after ingredient in it is 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 round and flat with a diameter of 5 – 7cm. They have a soft black skin and white flesh like the flesh of a coconut. Water chestnuts can also be boiled and made into flour, which is used for thickening of sauces and dishes, similar to cornstarch.

CHESTNUT

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

The blossoms of the chestnut tree have a brown shiny color and leathery shell. They may be eaten raw, but mostly are eat boiled, baked or roasted or as a chestnut puree sweetened or unsweetened.

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

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

CASHEW NUT

Originating in 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 inside the cashew apple. When mature the cashew nut appears at the end of the yellow or red 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 occurs 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 just in China.

The fruit looks like a tiny plum but has a foul and bitter shell. In China, the ginkgo nut is a favorite 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 was mentioned in writings as far back as 2838 B.C., and has been credited of currying many human ills in addition to being considered excellent 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 first 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, brownish colored brittle shell and belong to the Botanical family of peas and beans. But they are usually considered in addition to the nuts because of they’re physical characteristics and nutritional value. The nuts grow on the long roots of this plant and beneath the ground. The peanut is native to Brazil and has been found there since the first recording in 950 B.C..

Today, peanuts are cultivated throughout the tropics all over the world (India, China, West Africa, Australia and the USA are the biggest peanut growing countries). Peanuts produce excellent oil, which is used for salads and cold dishes as well as for frying. Peanuts also produce peanut butter, margarine, and also used in canning of sardines. Peanuts are available complete, de-shelled and de-skinned and raw or toasted. Peanuts are used in many different varieties in everything from salads to main courses and desserts.

PINENUT

These are the edible seed of the pine tree and grow in the cone. It is very tricky to set up a pinenut industry since the trees are growing very slow and don’t carry a good deal of fruits until they’re 75 years old.

Pine nuts are largely got raw and then toasted, fried or grilled. Pine nut oil is used for the cosmetic industry. Pine nut flour is used in confectionery.

PISTACHIO NUT

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

The natural colour of the shell is grayish white, but a few times the blossoms are dyed red to cover some of the discoloration.

Pistachios are often sold in their shell or shelled and blanched.

WALNUT

English walnuts, butternuts and hickory nuts are all walnuts, botanical speaking. 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 broadly called’The Walnut’.

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