Nut
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In the kitchen, the definition of a “Nut” (and we don’t mean the chefs or line cooks) is much looser than the biological definition.

Production

About 72% of U.S. Tree Nut production is exported. 

Varieties

In biology, a Nut is sort of a combination fruit/seed where the plant ovary wall becomes very hard, stony or woody and the Seed remains attached to the hardened ovary wall. Think of HazelnutsChestnutsAcornsHickory NutsButternutsBeech Nuts, Oak Nuts, and Filbert Nuts. By definition, they are real nuts. By the way, a small nut can be called a “nutlet.”

So, unless the ovary hardens around the seeds you don’t technically have a Nut. This is important to biologists but not so much to chefs. In Culinary, anything nut-like is often referred to as a Nut. The way we think about it in culinary is that any edible, hard-walled, oily, Kernel is a Nut. This looser definition, what we call Culinary Nuts, would include items like PistachiosAlmondsPeanutsBrazil NutsPecansWalnutsCashewsMacadamia Nuts, and Pine Nuts. Many of our favorite “Nuts” it would appear are not actually nuts but variants of Seeds.

Purchasing

When purchasing Nuts in a package, look for a “best before date” on bag, can or jar. If you can see the Nuts, they should be plump and uniform in size. They should not be limp or squishy looking. You should not see any signs of moisture inside the bag or jar. When opened, or if buying from a bulk bin, the Nuts themselves should not smell musty or rancid. You should not see any mold or dark discolorations. Moldy Nuts should be avoided and/or discarded.

Storage

Most of us will be purchasing and using dried, blanched or roasted Nuts, in or out of the shell which will have good moisture levels but all Nuts, including dried or roasted Nuts, still have a high Fat content which can turn Rancid very easily if not properly stored away from heat and light. Keep your commercially purchased Nuts in a air tight container and stored in a cool dark place.

Culinary Uses

Nuts (and seeds) are an important source of energy and Fat in our diets. Nuts can be eaten Raw, Roasted, Cooked, or pressed for their Oil.

Nutrition

Nuts, (true nuts and culinary nuts like PeanutsWalnuts, etc.), are also one of the major food allergen groups. Nuts can be deadly if ingested by the wrong diner. When using nuts care should be taken to mention their inclusion in menu descriptions and packaging labels. Because of the potentially fatal consequences, it never hurts to be overly cautious and overly communicative about nuts.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Varies

Low Calorie

Varies