Did you know that nuts have been part of the human diet for hundreds of thousands of years?
There are so many nuts out there and no, I don’t mean certain people, I mean the food source; but you may be surprised to know where they came from and how long ago people were eating them as part of a healthy diet.
The History of Nuts
This is the youngest of the edible nuts. I don’t necessarily mean that it hasn’t been around longer, but it wasn’t documented until the 1800 hundreds. The macadamia belongs to a family of trees known as the Proteacea, of which only 2 out of 10 species of nuts produce ‘sweet’ nuts; the rest produce nuts containing cyanide. The macadamia tree was originally thought to come from Hawaii, but it actually comes from the rainforest in Queensland, Australia.
These days’ macadamia nuts are classed as one of the most expensive nuts to buy, but they do have a lot of nutritional benefit. Not only can they be eaten as a healthy snack alternative, they can also be used in cooking and baking.
Believe it or not almonds are mentioned in the old testament of the Bible as one of the earliest cultivated foods.
Genesis 30:37-43 “Then Jacob took fresh sticks of poplar and almond and plane trees,..”
Crushed and made into Marzipan, http://www.realfoods.co.uk/product/1002/marzipan-natural-colour Arabians brought it back from the crusades in the 11th and 13th century when they returned from the Holy Lands.
Sugar coated almonds are now traditional favours at weddings.
The only nut out of the 8 major tree nuts of the world that is native to the United States of America. Native Indians used pecan nuts for survival in the autumn and winter months. They are a species of hickory belonging to the walnut family and have a long history of being used in confectionery; pecan pie, pecan pralines. Associated primarily with fine confections, pecans are now used as snack foods and for cereals and granolas. http://www.realfoods.co.uk/product/27121/treacle-and-pecan-granola
Grown along the black sea coastline since 300B.C hazelnuts are mainly grown in Turkey because the climate conditions are ideal for the nut. As such hazelnuts have been exported for 6 centuries.
Mainly used for confectionery and baking, http://www.realfoods.co.uk/product/27501/organic-raw-whole-hazel-nut-butter they can be used in salads, sauces or just an in the hand snack.
A manuscript found in China from 2838B.C stated that hazelnuts were one of the 5 sacred food sources God gave human beings.
These were first cultivated in Iran and then through trade, entered into Greek and Roman lands. Pistachios were first mentioned in a 6th century European food book as culinary nuts.
They are a versatile nut used in many recipes from use in pasta sauces, to pistachio bread to an ice-cream flavour.
There are 21 different species of walnut. They are produced commercially in 48 countries covering 1.6 million acres. One of the most used nuts when baking with the popular coffee and walnut and carrot and walnut cakes.
The cashew nut originated in Brazil, the plant making its way to India in the 16th century. It is a very special plant.
The cashew actually hangs from underneath the cashew apple.
Never heard of a cashew apple?
That’s because although it is edible and delicious, once picked, the apple will perish within 24 hours. Therefore it is only available to those who own and grow cashew plants.
What is even more fantastic is that between the two layers of the cashew’s hard shell is a substance known as cardol which is removed during shelling to make products such as paint, varnish and even rocket lubricant.
Brazil nuts have been available in the Amazon forest of South America for centuries. All Brazils are natural, in the sense that efforts to cultivate the nuts in plantations have never been successful. Brazil nuts are the seed of the tree and grow in pods; there are up to 30 nuts per pod.
Pine nuts have been used as a food source for centuries by tribal cultures such as the North American Hopi and Navajo.
Italian cuisine still uses them today.
Widely used in prepared foods, the most popular being pesto – a condiment of crushed pine nuts, basil, garlic and olive oil, http://www.realfoods.co.uk/product/23708/organic-green-pesto-with-pinenuts pine nuts are used in a variety of both sweet and savoury snacks, bakery products and salads.
So there you have it; a brief history of nuts with some nice links and ideas if you are struggling to come up with new ways to use them. I suppose after thousands of years I can understand why it is difficult to invent new methods to eat nuts!
Please feel free to give me your views on the history or nuts and share some of your favourite nutty recipes using the comments section below.Google+