Thursday, April 7, 2011

This is Nuts

Nuts are known to most of us as a dry fruit where the casing becomes very hard at maturity and we eat them.
But there is more to this nut business than meets the eye.
We know that pecans, sweet chestnuts,  acorns, hazel, hornbeam and alder are true nuts.
But, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, horse chestnuts and pine nuts are not really nuts at all. 

Peanuts, also known as groundnuts, earthnuts, goobers, pinders, Manila nuts and monkey nuts, aren’t nuts, instead they are a type of pea which grows underground. They are native to South America but now widely cultivated, notably in Georgia, in the United States.

Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts aren’t nuts either.
They are seeds contained in a pod, which splits apart. Real nuts don’t split – the seed and the fruit are one and the same. Brazil nuts mostly come from Bolivia and grow at the very top of really tall trees.
When the pods fall feom the tree the seeds are released.

WalnutsWalnuts aren’t nuts. Their name in Old English, walhnutu, meant “foreign nut”, from wealh, “foreign” (also the root for Wales). This was because they were introduced from Gaul and needed to be distinguished from the native hazelnut.
Because walnuts resemble the brain, they were believed in medieval times to be able to cure headaches.

Cashews aren’t nuts. They are the seeds of the cashew drupe which is a member of the poison-ivy family. The cashew’s seed lining contains a powerful irritant called anacardic acid (which explains why they are never served or sold in their skins).
The botanical name Anacardium refers to the shape of the fruit, which looks like an inverted heart (ana “upwards” + kardion “heart”).
Unlike Brazil nuts, cashews really do come from Brazil. The Portuguese planted them in Goa in the late 1500s and from there they spread through Asia and Africa.