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Nuts


Nuts

Nuts
© Denzil Green


We call many food items "nuts", and use them for all intents and purposes as nuts. Many "nuts", though aren't technically nuts at all.

Botanically, a Nut is a single-seed covered by a dry shell. The edible part is inside the shell. True Nuts are Nuts such as Acorns, Beechnuts, Chestnuts and Hazelnuts.

Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Butternuts, Hickory Nuts and Walnuts all grow inside a fruit, like the stone inside a cherry or a peach. They're actually a seed covered by a wet fruit covering, and that's why they're not true Nuts (they're actually what botanists call "drupes".)

Other things that we regard as Nuts, such as Cashews, Coconuts, Peanuts and Pine Nuts, aren't actually Nuts, either.

Nuts can be eaten out of hand as a snack food, used as an ingredient chopped or whole, pressed to yield oil, or ground into pastes. Food-wise, they provide both nutrition and taste.

Nuts can be regarded as a subsistence food for foragers, but in practice for the rest of us, they can be some of the pricier items on our shopping lists at grocery stores.

Cooking Tips

Generally Nuts can be eaten raw, but are often toasted to enhance their flavour. Sometimes toasting Nuts is referred to as "roasting" them.

To toast Nuts, place them in a frying pan such as a cast-iron or a non-stick one, with nothing else in the pan (meaning no oil or butter), and heat them for a few minutes over a low heat, stirring them occasionally. Or, bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 350 F (175 C) for 10 minutes (shake a few times during that).

When chopping Nuts in blender or a food processor, if sugar is appropriate for what you are making, you can add a teaspoon or tablespoon of sugar to help prevent them sticking together. Flour will also do the trick.

To crush Nuts manually, put them between two pieces of waxed paper or in a plastic bag and roll with a rolling pin.

When cracking Nuts in their shells, be careful of flying pieces, especially with regard to your eyes.

Nutrition

Nuts are high in fat, but the fat is good fat: apart from coconuts, the fat in Nuts is largely unsaturated.

Equivalents

As a general rule, 4 oz shelled Nuts = 115g = 1 cup, chopped

5 oz peanuts or mixed nuts = 140g = 1 cup
3 3/4 oz pecans, halves = 105g = 1 cup
4 1/2 oz pecans or walnuts, chopped = 130g = 1 cup
4 1/2 oz walnuts, chopped = 130g = 1 cup
1 pound walnuts, in shell = 450g = 1 1/2 cups shelled

Storage Hints

Nuts in their shell have a longer storage life. Shelled Nuts should be stored in the fridge or freezer, as they can go rancid faster.

History Notes

Nuts have been a part of December celebrations for millenia. The Romans would give each other small presents including nuts at Saturnalia, and gamble for them; the nut tradition got absorbed with Saturnalia into Christmas and is still a tradition in many European and Middle Eastern Christian cultures. Christians in Syria eat nuts as part of their Christmas dinner; in Europe, for hundreds of years children have received nuts in their Christmas stockings.

Literature & Lore

"I have a venturous fairy that shall seek the squirrel's hoard, and fetch thee new nuts." -- Titania. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Act IV, Scene 1. Shakespeare.

Language Notes

Shelled Nuts are sometimes referred to as "Nut meats".

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Also called:

Nuez (Spanish); Nozes (Portuguese)

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