Most nuts are the seeds or dried fruits of trees. The majority have hard, woody, outer husks that protect the softer kernel inside. Peanuts are actually a type of legume, but are commonly classified as nuts. Tree nuts are often good sources of protein and fiber and are high in healthy fats. They also contain several vitamins and minerals. Like all plants, nuts contain no cholesterol.
Almonds are in the same plant family as peaches and apricots. Historians say that almonds, mentioned in the Old Testament of the Bible, were among the earliest cultivated foods. They are believed to have originated in China and Central Asia and later introduced to the Mediterranean. Today, 80 percent of the world’s supply of almonds comes from California. Almonds should be stored in cool, dry conditions and shelled almonds may be refrigerated up to one year. They are sodium free, an excellent source of manganese and vitamin E and a good source of magnesium, copper, phosphorous and fiber.
Cashews grow on trees, hanging below a fleshy, apple-like fruit. The fruit is sweet when ripe and is eaten raw or stewed. Cashews always come to us shelled because between the outer and inner shells there is a caustic oil. The outer shell and oil are burned or roasted off after which the nut is boiled or roasted again to remove the inner shell. Shelled cashews may be refrigerated up to six months and frozen up to one year. They are sodium free and a good source of magnesium, vitamin K, phosphorous and zinc.
The pecan, which is native only to North America, was a staple in the diets of both the natives and the early settlers. Pecans have a smooth shell and the kernel makes up 40-60 percent of the in-shell. When selecting unshelled nuts, choose ones that are heavy for their size and free from cracks and blemishes.
Shake unshelled nuts, they should not rattle as rattling is an indication of age. You may store unshelled pecans up to three months at room temperature or up to one year in the freezer. Refrigerate shelled pecans for up to six months and freeze up to one year. Pecans are sodium free, an excellent source of manganese, and a good source of thiamin and fiber.
The English walnut tree is grown for its timber as well as nuts. Walnuts were used as a common trade item by English ships throughout the Mediterranean. That is why it is called the “English Walnut”. They were brought to California by Franciscan Fathers from Spain in the 18th century, and today California produces much of the world’s supply. Unshelled walnuts may be stored up to three months at room temperature or up to one year in the freezer. You may refrigerate shelled nuts in an airtight container for up to three months or freeze up to one year. Walnuts contain omega 3 fatty acids, essential fats that may promote heart health. They are sodium free; an excellent source of manganese and copper and a good source of magnesium.
In general, when selecting nuts:
•There should be no evidence of damage from insects or moisture.
•Shells should not be cracked or have holes.
•If purchased in the bulk section, check to see if bins are covered.
•Check expiration dates of packaged nuts.
•Nuts should not appear rubbery or shriveled.
•If possible, smell the nuts to make sure they are not rancid.
For further information, you may contact Adrianne Vidrine at the LSU AgCenter at (337) 788-8821 or you can also visit our website at http://www.lsuagcenter.com.