Nuts And Seeds - part 2

ALMOND

While almonds are native to the comparatively warm regions of northern Africa and western Asia, they also grow excellently in California, which grows about 99 per cent of all domestic requirements for almonds.

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Almonds are basically the edible seeds produced by the sweet almond trees. Almonds have the shape of a tear-drop and are enclosed in shells and have a fleshy hull on the exterior. Almonds may taste both - sweet as well as bitter. The sweet variety of almond possesses a supple yet typical taste, whereas the bitter type of almond is not edible when raw, as it encloses a tinge of a poisonous substance called prussic acid, which is a cyanide amalgam. In the latter part of the 19th century some herbalist cross-bred different varieties of sweet almond to create novel varieties, including the California, Carmel, Mission, Nonpareil (which is the most well-liked variety currently) and Price. Ever since, as many as 30 more new varieties of sweet almonds were developed and now all of them are cultivated on a commercial basis.

From the nutritional viewpoint, almonds possess additional calcium compared to all other nuts and supply a very good amount of iron, vitamin E as well as riboflavin. Almonds contain substantial amounts of fat and over 60 per of this is derived from monounsaturated fat.

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BEECHNUT

Beech trees are native to woodlands in regions having temperate climatic conditions and grow in many areas of the world, including North America, Europe, North Africa and Asia. These trees may often grow up to a height of 120 feet. Beechnuts are ordinary seeds (also called nuts) surrounded by a spiky burrs which drop to the earth during autumn. Beechnuts have a resemblance to small chestnuts and their flavor is akin to that of hazelnuts. There are over 10 species of beech trees that produce different varieties of nuts.

Beechnuts provide us with good amounts of riboflavin and thiamin and are also an excellent resource of iron. Over 80 per cent of their fat content is derived from monounsaturated as well as polyunsaturated fats.

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BRAZIL NUT

Evergreen trees that are mostly found growing the length of the Amazon, Rio Negro and Orinoco rivers in South America produce Brazil nuts. These nuts measure approximately six inches across and look like a coconut. Each fruit borne by Brazil nut trees produces anything between 18 and 20 nuts inside its firm shell. Within, the nuts having a triangular shape are organized in the same way as the wedges are arranged in an orange. The white kernel within the hard shell is edible. The kernel is very nutritious, has a creamy color and tastes sweet. It is also an excellent resource of thiamin and phosphorus, in addition to providing some amounts of calcium. The nut also contains high amounts of fat, much of which comprises unsaturated fat.

Brazil nuts are only harvested when the ripened fruit of the tree drops on the ground on its own. The fruits are cut to acquire the nuts inside. As the Brazil nut trees grow naturally in the middle of the dense Amazon forest, it is only possible to ship the nuts in the rainy season, when it is easy to navigate the rivers and streams. Despite the fact that these nuts grow only in Brazil, the local inhabitants hardly get to consume them, as most of the produce is exported.

Brazil nuts are known by various different names, including butternut, para nut, castanea, and cream nut. Oil extracted from Brazil nuts is employed to manufacture soaps or it is simply used in the form of an industrial lubricant.

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CASHEW NUT

Currently, India is the largest cashew nuts producer across the globe. Other important cashew nut producing countries include Brazil, Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania.

Trees that bear cashew nuts give rise to a stalk that resembles a fruit and it is known as the cashew apple (however, its actual shape has more resemblance to a pear). The cashew nut is attached at one end of this cashew apple. The exterior shell of the cashew nut is even and its color is like that of ash. The length of the cashew nut kernel, which is edible, differs from about 3/4 inch to one inch. Although the generic name of cashew nuts Anacardium means heart-shaped, in reality, the shape of cashew nuts resembles that of human kidneys.

Cashew nuts are never sold unshelled, as their edible kernel is surrounded by an internal shell and the gap between the internal and the external shells is packed with dense, acerbic and toxic oil, which has close relation with poison ivy. If you consume cashew nuts with their shell and unroasted, it will burn up your mouth as well as the lips and result in the formation of blisters on your facial skin.

From the nutritional viewpoint, cashew nuts are wonderful resource of essential minerals like phosphorus, iron, zinc, potassium, and vitamins like thiamin and riboflavin. Monounsaturated fats form the main source of the fat enclosed by cashew nuts.

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CHESTNUT

Chestnut trees grow naturally in Europe, Asia and North America. In effect, lyrics of one Christmas carol have made the fruits borne by these trees very popular. In China, chestnut trees were cultivated for the first time ever roughly 5,000 years back. It is said that chestnut trees were aplenty in Mount Olympus, gods' abode in ancient Greece.

In general, chestnut trees live for an extremely prolonged period. It has been found that a number of chestnut trees that had been grafted over 500 years back continue to survive to this day. Moreover, trees bearing chestnuts also have the capability to settle in poor soil too. The nuts of these trees are harvested manually when they fall on the ground from their prickly external covering (also called a burr). Normally, the chestnut trees begin to bear fruits when they have already existed for more or less 25 years.

The size of chestnuts may vary from 1/2 inch to over one inch, subject to the variety of the trees. One side of the nuts is rounded, while the other is flat. Similarly, one end is pointed, while the other is rounded. When the chestnut kernel is roasted, it become supple, fleshy and tastes sweet.

Indigenous to the eastern regions of the United States, there was a time when the variety called common American chestnut extensively prevailed the forest lands ranging from Georgia to Maine. However, currently this tree has almost become destroyed owing to a disease attributable to fungus. Presently, just a few trees can be found growing in that region.

GINKGO NUT

The trees that bear ginkgo nuts are deemed to be the most ancient plant species known to man that is surviving till today. This tree is said to have been existed for about 250 million years and has not changed in any manner. In fact, ginkgo trees (botanical name Gingko biloba) are believed to be a fossil that is still alive. The ginkgo nut is basically the seed of an unpalatable fruit resembling apricot, which is distinctive for having a potent odour, which, according to some people, it unpleasant. The nuts produced by the female trees are enclosed in a tough, buff-hued shell, which is pointed at both ends. Inside the shell, the flesh is of similar shape as well as color, but it is smooth and possesses a supple, sweet flavour. While these trees are grown in several cities in the United States, as they are unaffected by air pollution, most people are ignorant of the fact that the ginkgo trees produce edible nuts.

People in Asia have been traditionally using the nuts as well as the fan-like leaves for therapeutic purposes for several thousand years now. In fact, the extracts as well as the powder obtained from the ginkgo biloba trees are sold extensively in the U.S. in the form of herbal supplements. These products are endorsed as remedies to enhance the memory.

Nutritionally speaking, ginkgo nuts provide us with excellent amounts of niacin and thiamin, in addition to essential minerals like potassium, copper and phosphorus.

HAZELNUT

The size of hazelnuts is the same as that of grapes and these nuts are known by various names, counting cobnut and filbert. Hazelnuts are enclosed in woody, brown colored shells that detach easily from their kernel. These nuts develop from leaf-like husks that split open when the nuts are ripened. In August, the ripened nuts start falling from the trees. They are harvested manually and kept aside according to their size and, subsequently, put up for sale for processing.

Roughly, hazelnuts trees are found in ten main species. The species of hazelnut that are cultivated most extensively include the American hazelnut, European hazelnut and the Turkish hazelnut. A variety of hazelnut hybrids have been developed from these ten major species. The most common hybrid hazelnut varieties comprise the Barcelona, the Duchilly and the Winkler. In fact, several connoisseurs of hazelnuts believe that the Barcelona variety yields the best nuts.

From the nutritional aspect, hazelnuts form a wonderful resource of thiamin, magnesium, iron, potassium, and phosphorus. In addition, they also provide us with a good amount of niacin. The main source of fats present in hazelnuts comprises monounsaturated fat.

LOTUS SEED

For several centuries, people in India, Egypt and China have used the lotus plant, particularly the flowers, in the form of ornamentation in their arts. While several people are aware of the fact that the lotus plant is cultivated for its gorgeous flowers, in fact, its roots as well as seeds are edible. The cream-colored seeds of the lotus plant gentle raise the essence of many cuisines in several Asian nations.

Besides the seeds, the lotus plants' roots too are edible. After these starch-packed roots are cut into small pieces and cooked, they turn pale brown and have a crunchy surface. Normally, they are utilized in the form of a vegetable in some dishes prepared by people in a number of Asian countries. The leaves of the lotus plant are eaten too. While the tender leaves are consumed raw, the mature leaves are often used to envelop rice, fruit and even meat dishes prior to steaming them.

The seeds of the lotus plant are known by various names. The most common names of lotus seeds are Indian lotus, nelumbium and hasu.

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