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.
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.
A hazelnut is the nut of the hazel (the cobnut or filbert are species of the same family)
Turkey is the largest producer of hazelnuts accounting for 625,000 tonnes – about 75% of worldwide production although Italy, Greece, Georgia, Spain, the USA as well as the UK are commercial producers
Long term cultivation of hazelnuts became evident with the discovery on the island of Colonsay in Scotland in 1995 of large-scale Mesolithic nut processing dating back 9,000 years.
Harvested annually in mid-autumn, most commercial growers wait for the nuts to drop on their own, rather than use equipment to shake them from the tree.
Hazelnuts are used in confectionery to make praline, and also used in combination with chocolate for chocolate truffles and products such as Nutella and Frangelico liqueur. Hazelnut oil, pressed from hazelnuts, is strongly flavoured and used as a cooking oil.
Hazelnuts are rich in protein, unsaturated fat and complex carbohydrates. Moreover, they contain significant amounts of thiamine and vitamin B6, as well as smaller amounts of other B vitamins. Low in Cholesterol and Sodium, they are also a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol) and Copper, and a very good source of Manganese.
Hazelnuts contain phytochemicals including proanthocyanidins, quercetin and kaempherol. These proanthocyanidins belong to a group called the flavonoids which may support brain health, improve circulation and reduce symptoms associated with allergies
The peanut, or groundnut (Arachis hypogaea), is not actually a nut but a member of the legume or “bean” family. It is a small annual herb which grows up to 30cm above the ground
Probably first domesticated and cultivated in Paraguay, the oldest specimens, found in Peru, have been dated to about 7,600 years ago. The Spanish conquistadors found the ‘tlalcacahuatl’ (from which came the Spanish, cacahuate and French, cacahuète) being sold in the marketplace of Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City).
India and China are the world’s largest producers of peanuts, but most of their production is consumed domestically as peanut oil, so exports are less than 4% of world trade. The major producers/exporters of peanuts are the United States, Argentina, Sudan, Senegal, and Brazil. These five countries account for 71% of total world exports.
Peanuts provide over 30 essential nutrients and phytonutrients. They are a good source of niacin, folic acid, fibre, vitamin E, magnesium and phosphorus. They also are naturally free of trans-fats and sodium, and contain about 25% protein (a higher proportion than in any true nut). Peanuts are a source of coenzyme Q10, (as found in oily fish, beef, soybeans and spinach) and an excellent source of polyphenolic antioxidant, resveratrol, believed to provide a protective function against cancer, heart disease, nerve disease, Alzheimer’s, and viral/fungal infections.
The pecan (Carya illinoinensis), is a species of hickory, native to south-central North America.
A pecan, like the fruit of all other members of the hickory genus, is strictly speaking a drupe not a nut, a fruit with a single stone or pit, surrounded by a husk.
Pecans first became known to Spanish explorers in what is now Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana. More familiar with the genus Juglans, these explorers referred to the nuts asnogales and nueces, the Spanish terms for “walnut trees” and “fruit of the walnut.”
One of the most recently domesticated major crops – commercial growing of pecans in the United States didn’t start until the 1880s.
Pecan trees may live and bear edible seeds for more than 300 years
Pecans are a good source of protein and unsaturated fats. Like walnuts pecans are rich in omega-6 fatty acids
The antioxidants and plant sterols found in pecans reduce high cholesterol by reducing the “bad” LDL cholesterol levels
A walnut is an edible seed of any tree of the genus Juglans, especially the Persian or English walnut, Juglans regia. Walnut seeds are a high density source of nutrients, particularly proteins and essential fatty acids.
The word walnut derives from the Germanic wal- and Old English wealhhnutu, literally “foreign nut”, wealh meaning “foreign”
Global production in 2010 was 2.55 million metric tonnes ; China was the world’s largest producer of walnut seeds, with a total harvest of 1.06 million metric tonnes. The other major producers of walnut seeds were (in the order of decreasing harvest): United States, Iran, Turkey, Ukraine, Mexico, Romania, India, France and Chile.
Walnuts are a nutrient-dense food: 100 grams of walnuts contain 15.2 grams of protein, 65.2 grams of fat, and 6.7 grams of dietary fibre. The protein in walnuts provides many essential amino acids.
Unlike most nuts that are high in monounsaturated fatty acids, walnut oil is composed largely of polyunsaturated fatty acids particularly alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid. The beneficial effects of this unique fatty acid profile have been a subject of many studies and discussions.
Compared to certain other nuts, such as almonds, peanuts and hazelnuts, walnuts contain the highest total level of antioxidants.