At this time of year the nuts are in abundance but squirrels are not the only ones storing them up as we like to eat them too and have associated them with festive occasions for centuries now. I am a big nut fan myself eating brazils and cashews most days as they really are a perfect food with added health benefits. With high unsaturated anti-inflammatory fat content that helps our cells, low calories in some, low carbs and rich in protein and mineral salts, nuts are one of nature’s concentrated super foods. Some varieties have an incredible seventy percent fat.
They are almost as good as eating meat frankly. Once left in their shells they can last a long time too so no wonder they were stored up by humans just like the animals do. They were probably one of the first things consumed by man and would have certainly helped our biological development back in the beginning of time. They are the reproductive kernel of the plant or tree they come from, so they can become rancid or nibbled by insects therefore care must still be taken to mind them properly.
Many nuts are confusingly defined as seeds, others as fruits like cashew, so classifications are all a bit nutty. True nuts would be ones like acorns. They are probably the world’s most popular natural snack though and we cannot get enough of them it would seem.
They also range enormously in price with say macadamias being the most expensive as they are slow to produce and do not grow as widespread as other types unlike say almonds the most widely grown. The bad news here is that almonds are the most unecofriendly nut to produce as it takes four litres of water to grown one measly almond. So almond milk might be sometimes replacing dairy milk now but is it any better for the planet with all that water needed to produce almonds? The cruel irony is that they are also the healthiest nut for us to eat. Go figure.
. For cooking however, nuts are so versatile in both savoury and sweets. Something like Chinese satay sauce is peanut based and walnut dressing would be one of my favourites for salads. Chestnut stuffing is a classic, coconut in curries and for non meat eaters nuts are an all round essential ingredient for a lot of alternative options. As a spread and butter they really are a winner with all that fat helping no end.
It is in desserts that nuts really show their worth with everything from almond paste and hazelnut praline to pecan pie and pistachio ice cream. They are everywhere in sweets and confectionery too working so well with the likes of chocolate, coffee, sugar, spice and all things nice.
Around the world nuts are big business. The Americans are the biggest nut producers for exporting followed by China and Turkey. Germany is the biggest importer of nuts and as a proper brain food then we will no doubt continue to see them as top of the European economic class.
There is one little problem with nuts in general these days however and that is they are two of the fourteen official allergens we have to be aware of in food. Peanuts have a separate classification all of their own as they can literally be so deadly for anyone who is allergic to them. The good news is that they are working on fighting these nut related allergies by researching how to wean people back ever so slowly onto eating nuts without having adverse reactions. For severe cases just inhaling the air around someone who is eating nuts can have fatal consequences. In the meantime just be cognizant of the fact that if someone is allergic to nuts do not take the risk.