Full Chisel Blog

November 26, 2010

Tree Nuts

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Trees,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 8:50 am


Almond – Prunus spp. ripe fruit of various species, sweet flavor with 50% fixed oil and a shell that is easy to crack.

Black Walnut – Juglens nigra, this is a small nut, compared to English walnuts, but packs a wonderful intense flavor from mainly fixed and some volatile oils.  The shell is difficult to crack without destroying the nut meats and requires a nut pick to retrieve all of the tasty bits.

Brazil nut – (Bertholletia excelsa) named after a wood ‘Brazil’, but not Brazilwood, is usually considered the hardest nut to crack but if placed properly in a nutcracker it is possible to retrieve the tasty oily nut whole.  Pound for pound Brazil nuts are the most fattening food on earth.

Butternut – Juglens cinerea, I have only had the opportunity to taste this fine nut a couple of times as it is not commercially available where I live.  It has both fixed and volatile oils and gets its name from the creamy taste it leaves in your mouth.

Cashew – of the Anacardium family, this imported nut is available either ‘raw’ or roasted, because of nasty alkaloids, Urushi, related to poison ivy, poison sumac, etc. the nuts are boiled first to remove them, then sold as raw.

English Walnut – Juglens regia, this is the classic walnut most of us eat and cook with.  Has a bit of a bitter taste with fixed and volatile oils and tannin.  I believe the walnut was designed improperly as it should crack open at 90° to the seam between the nut halves.  If you crack the nuts in that direction the entire meat section comes out in one or two pieces.

Hazelnut – Corylus spp. undoubtedly my favorite nut, I enjoy cracking the nuts open and enjoying its great flavor.  My naughty brass nut cracker does an extraordinary job at precisely cracking the cob nut or filbert while saving the nut whole.  Oddly enough I don’t like anything hazelnut flavored.

Hickory nut – Carya spp. another nut that I have only had a couple of times.  By far the tastiest nut I have ever eaten and one of the most difficult to extract the meat.  The shells are very hard and requires work to get to the good stuff.  A nut pick is a must for this tasty petite morsel.

Macadamia nut – Macadamia integrifolia probably the most expensive nut, it has a rich flavor but I think they are a bit mealy.  I have never seen this nut in the shell, but have heard they are difficult to crack as well.  Some species are inedible or poisonous.

Pistachio – Pistacia vera, you don’t need a nutcracker for this treat, the cooking process conveniently splits the shell allowing easy extraction of this green nut.  What would spumoni be without pasticcios?

Pecan – Carya spp. related to hickory in name only [well the wood marketed as hickory is either hickory or pecan].  Pronounced with a long or short ‘a’ depending where you are from the shell of this nut couldn’t be more different from its sister the hickory nut.  Easy to crack and delicious baked into pies.

Pine nut – pushing the boundary of nuts the ‘seed’ from the Pinus edulis are available fresh in the fall during harvest, but popular in cooking it is now available year round.  I love cracking open the shells getting pine pitch all over my hands, closest thing to eating wood.



  1. I have to disagree about the brazil nut. I used to be able to crack those with just a pair of pliers when I was a kid. Since I discovered the black walnut tree nearby, I have tried to open a couple. only managed one time. I had to use a vice and even then it was quite literally one tough nut to crack.

    Comment by t. tutt — November 27, 2010 @ 4:50 pm

  2. I also like hazelnuts but nothing flavored with it. Why do people ruin good coffee anyway?
    Butternuts have a sticky slightly furry covering that puts them right behind black walnuts for being a pain to process.
    Why do we need a pick to get the meat out when a squirrel can do it with just his teeth? I’ve never seen a squirrel eaten black walnut with even a bit of meat left in it.

    Comment by Peter Oster — November 27, 2010 @ 9:01 pm

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