CHARLOTTE, N.C., March 21, 2018: At one time or another we have all said that someone we know is a “nut.” Just as likely, we often declare that some wild idea is just plain “nutty.” So the logical trivia question for today: How much do we really know about nuts?
Nuts, walnuts and other edible nuts
Historically, walnuts are the oldest known tree food, dating as far back as 10,000 BC. That fact alone provides enough food for thought when it comes to munching on these relatively healthy snacks.
Nuts not only contain unsaturated fatty acids, fiber and protein. They also aid in lowering cholesterol and reducing blood clots. Even better, they keep us feeling full longer. And, best of all, nuts are a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Many doctors, scientists and nutritionists consider Omega-3s to be important for maintaining normal human metabolism.
Despite their acknowledged nutritional benefits, however, only two nuts are mentioned in the Bible. Almonds get the most references with two, while pistachios received but a single mention.
Most nuts actually grow on trees. But peanuts, while they nutritionally resemble nuts, are technically legumes because they mature in pods like beans and peas. Except that peanuts grow underground, like potatoes.
Finding ourselves back above ground once again, we discover that pistachios are actually the seeds of a grape-like fruit. Pistachio lovers note: In Iran, pistachios are called the “smiling nut,” while the Chinese refer to them as the “happy nut.”
Warning label for cashews and macadamia nuts?
Somewhat like pistachios, the true botanic designation of the cashew is that it’s also a fruit. But here’s a major distinction. The cashew is the only nut that is never sold in its shell. The reason for this is that the cashew’s double shell contains a resin called urushiol, which is toxic for human consumption. Even worse, that urushiol resin is used in the manufacture of brake liners and auto paint. Perhaps strangest of all, cashews are botanically in the same plant family as poison ivy and poison sumac.
With regard to the wonderful world of toxins, never let your dog get near macadamia nuts. Much like chocolate, macadamias are actually poisonous for canine consumption. So be sure to keep Fido away from that tempting bowl of macadamia nuts.
Fortunately, macadamia nuts present no such problems for humans. Better yet, unlike most nuts which must be picked for harvest, macadamias simply fall off the tree when they are ripe. The bad news: Macadamias possess the hardest shell of any nut, requiring 300 PSI to crack them open. Maybe that’s why shelled macadamias are so expensive.
Brazil nuts are just the bee’s knees
Brazil nuts are also unique in their own distinctive way. Believe it or not, more than half of all Brazil nuts are actually grown in Bolivia. It’s not unlike the case of Panama hats, which actually originated in Ecuador; or tomatoes, which were native to the Americas as far back as the 8th century.
Brazil nuts cannot be cultivated. They grow wild, and must be pollinated by a specific type of bee in coordination with a single type of orchid. As such, it can take as long as 10 to 30 years for a Brazil nut to mature. Maybe that’s why we see so few of them in a can of mixed nuts.
Bees like almonds, too
As for those busy bees, we can and should thank them for giving us almonds. More specifically, it’s bumblebees that pollinate our almond crops. Almonds, by the way, have a long shelf-life. You can refrigerate these durable nuts for as many as two years, thanks in large part to the fact that they a rich source of Vitamin E.
An astonishing forty percent of the world’s almonds find their way into various chocolate products. At a 13 percent consumption rate, almonds are the second most popular nut in the U.S. Almonds, in fact, are just behind peanuts, which account for two-thirds of the nuts Americans ingest. Pecans hold the number three position at a distant four percent.
What’s in that tasty PBJ?
In case you were wondering (which you probably weren’t), it takes about 540 peanuts to produce a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter. That comes out to approximately 18 peanuts in your peanut butter and jelly (PBJ) sandwich.
Nutty states, or state nuts?
Oddly enough, five U.S. states have actually adopted an official “state nut.” Yet Georgia, which is famous for its peanuts – thanks in large part to former president Jimmy Carter – is not one of them.
Alabama and Texas have given the state nut honor to pecans, while California claims almonds for its own. Ohio is easy for nut lovers to remember because its official nut is the buckeye, which also gives the Buckeye State its nickname. Meanwhile, across the fruited plain, in Oregon, the hazelnut is revered.
From St. Philibert to a final, nutty booty call
We should note that until the mid-20th century, hazelnuts were known as filberts. Most observers believe that filberts are a corruption of St. Philibert, whose feast day on August 20th coincides with the day those nuts begin to ripen in western Europe.
Finally, just for the record, the coco de mer, translated to mean “sea coconut,” is the world’s largest seed. Found only in the Seychelles, coco de mer is the same size, and shape, of a human derrière! (See our image at the top of this page.)
Talk about a booty call, that’s just plain nutty. No butts about it.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News.