The almond is the edible seed of the Almond tree (Prunus dulcis or Prunus amygdalus). Native to the Middle East and South Asia, Almonds were first found in an area stretching from northern India westwards to Syria, Israel and Turkey, then spreading into North Africa, Southern Europe and latterly California
The word ‘almond’ comes from the old French, ‘almande’ (now amande). In Germany, they are called Mandel; Mandorlo in Italy and Almendro in Spain
The fruit of the almond is a drupe (Typical drupes include peaches, plums, and cherries… and coconuts!), consisting of an outer hull and a hard shell with the seed (which is not a true nut) inside.
Our almonds normally come from California’s central valley. One of California’s top three agricultural exports, more than 80% of the world’s crop of Almonds is produced there (more than 630,000 metric tons in 2011)
A widely used food ingredient, almonds are packed with goodness: 20 percent of raw almond is high quality protein, a third of which are essential amino acids They are also rich in dietary fibre B vitamins, essential minerals and monounsaturated fat, one of the two fats which may lower LDL cholesterol
Almonds are popular ingredients in skincare lotions and potions. The vitamin E in almonds (26 mg per 100 g – a similar amount to that found in broccoli) is great for skin and hair.
Blueberries (Cyanococcus Vaccinium) are perennial flowering plants in the same family as cranberries and bilberries.
Blueberries have a diverse range of micronutrients: manganese, vitamin C, vitamin K dietary fibre, anthocyanins and selenium. They are being researched for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and may help protect against diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s, lowering cholesterol, restoring health of the central nervous system, reducing blood sugar levels and the symptoms of depression.
Country of origin
Although only introduced in the early 1980’s, Chile is the biggest South American producer with an estimated area of 12.400 hectares in 2012. Grown from Copiapó in the north to Puerto Montt in the south allows blueberries production from October to late March.
Dried Blueberries are prepared by infusing blueberries in sucrose syrup then drying the berries to a specified moisture content. Sunflower Oil is topically applied. The finished dried fruit is quality checked, visually inspected, and passed through a metal detector before packaging.
The Brazil (Bertholletia excelsa) is a large South American tree, reaching 50 metres (160 ft) tall and with a trunk 1 to 2 metres (3.3 to 6.6 ft) in diameter, is among the largest trees in the Amazon Rainforests and can live for 500 years or more. Despite its size, it is from the same family (Ericales) as azaleas, blueberries, cranberries, tea, gooseberries, phlox, and persimmon.
It is native to the Guianas, Venezuela, Brazil, eastern Colombia, eastern Peru and eastern Bolivia. It occurs as scattered trees in large forests on the banks of the Amazon, Rio Negro, Tapajós, and the Orinoco.
Brazil nuts are a rich source of selenium good for psoriasis, which can also help prevent cancer of the liver, lung, stomach, prostate, pancreas, brain, kidney and oesophagus by blocking the formation of tumours.
The cashew, Anacardium occidentale, technically a seed, derives its English name from the Portuguese caju. The name Anacardium refers to the shape of the fruit, which looks like an upside-down heart (ana “upwards” and -cardium “heart”)
Originally native to Northeastern Brazil, the tree which is very frost sensitive is now widely grown in tropical climates for its cashew apples and nuts. The largest producing countries include Nigeria, India, Vietnam and Ivory Coast
The tree is large and evergreen, growing to 10-12m (~32 ft) tall. The fruit is a pseudocarp or false fruit. The cashew apple that appears to be the fruit or pear-shaped structure, a hypocarpium is edible, with a strong “sweet” smell and a sweet taste, although because the skin is fragile, it is unsuitable for transport.
With a lower fat content than most other nuts, approximately 75% of their fat is unsaturated fatty acids, of which 75% is oleic acid promoting good cardiovascular health.
They are a rich source of essential minerals, especially manganese, potassium, copper, iron, magnesium, zinc – cofactors for many vital enzymes that produce antioxidants, and regulate growth and development, sperm generation and digestion.
Cashews are also rich in many essential vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), riboflavin, and thiamine (vitamin B-1), reducing the risk of anaemia, dermatitis and aiding metabolism of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. A small amount of zea-xanthin present is thought to provide antioxidant and UV filtering functions and help prevent age-related macular degeneration.
Popularly roasted, salted, sugared and chocolate covered, the cashew nut, unlike other oily tree nuts, has high starch content, making it useful for thickening water-based dishes such as soups and stews.
Cashew is commonly used in Indian cuisine. The nut is used whole or ground in curries and sweets.
The cherry is a fleshy drupe (stone fruit). The sour cherry Prunus cerasus is thought to have originated as a natural hybrid between Prunus avium and Prunus fruticosa in the Caucasus
Cherries have a very short growing season and can grow in most temperate latitudes. The peak season for cherries in southern Europe and North America is June
The English word cherry, French cerise and Spanish cereza come from the classical Greek (κέρασος) through the Latin cerasum
Sour cherries seem to be more beneficial for our health. High in antioxidants, effective against arthritis and gout, and a good preventive measure against heart diseases and cancer. They contain melatonin to combat insomnia and reduce the brain damage which happens because of ageing Tart cherries are also rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin A and beta-carotene.
As well as a delicious snack, dried sour cherries are used in cooking including soups and pork dishes, cakes, tarts, and piesand also in liquers and drinks
The coconut is a fibrous one-seeded drupe, also known as a dry drupe which technically means it’s a fruit rather than a nut.
Interesting Coconut Facts
- Coconuts are called the “Tree of Life” as every bit of the coconut is used to produce drink, fibre, food, fuel, utensils, musical instruments, and much more.
- The term is derived from 16th century Portuguese / Spanish coco, meaning “skull” after the three small holes on the coconut shell resembling facial features.
- Coconut water was used as a substitute intravenous solution for blood transfusion during World War II and Vietnam.
- In 16th century, Sir Francis Drake called coconut “nargils”, which was the common term used until the 1700’s when the word coconut was established.
- It takes 11 -12 months for the coconut to mature.
- There are more than 80 varieties of coconut palms
- The origin of the plant is much debated, suggestions including an Indo-Pacific origin and northwestern South America.
- The oldest fossils known of the modern coconut date from the Eocene period from around 37 to 55 million years ago and were found in Australia and India.
Cranberries are a berry fruit from low, creeping shrubs or trailing vines in the subgenus Oxycoccus of the genus Vaccinium.
The bushes with slender, wiry stems and small evergreen leaves grow up to 2 metres long and 5 to 20 centimetres high.
The name cranberry derives from “craneberry”, first named by early European settlers in America who felt the expanding flower, stem, calyx, and petals resembled the neck, head, and bill of a crane.
Dried cranberries are made by partially dehydrating fresh cranberries, a process similar to making grapes into raisins. They are popular in trail mix, salads, and breads, with cereals or eaten on their own.
Dried cranberries contain no cholesterol, saturated or trans fats. The most substantial mineral content is manganese representing 5% daily recommended intake.
Currants also known as Corinthian raisins or Zante raisins, are dried berries of small, sweet, seedless grape cultivar ‘Black Corinth’ (Vitis vinifera). The name comes from the Anglo-French phrase “raisins de Corinthe” (raisins of Corinth) and the Ionian island of Zakynthos (Zante), once a major producer and exporter.
The currant is one of the oldest known raisins. The first written record was in 75 AD by Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, describing it as a ‘tiny, juicy, thick-skinned grape with small bunches’. In the 14th century, they were sold in the English market under the label Reysyns de Corauntz, and the name raisins of Corinth was recorded in the 15th century, after the Greek harbour which was the primary source of export. Gradually, the name became corrupted into currant.
Currants are very small and intensely flavoured. In the UK, currants are used in Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and mincemeat as well as biscuits scones, currant buns. Also available mixed with raisins and sultanas as “mixed dried fruit”.
Dates are the fruit of the Phoenix dactylifera (date palm) which can grow to 20-25 metres high.
Dates have been cultivated for thousands of years – a staple of the Middle East and the Indus Valley (now Pakistan). They are believed to have originated in Iraq as early as 4000 BCE, although archaeological evidence shows date cultivation in eastern Arabia in 6000 BCE. The Ancient Egyptians ate the fruit and made date wine. There is also evidence of date cultivation in Mehrgarh a Neolithic civilization in western Pakistan, around 7000 BCE.
The fruit’s English name comes from the Greek word for “finger,” dáktulos, because of the fruit’s elongated shape
Dried dates contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Thiamin, Niacin and Riboflavin. Essential minerals include high iron content a good source of calcium and Magnesium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Copper, Manganese and Selenium
The fruit is rich in dietary fibre, which prevents LDL cholesterol absorption in the gut, and they contain flavonoid polyphenolic antioxidants or tannins – which have anti-infective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-haemorrhagic properties.