Fruit with nuts inside can be delicious, as we all know. It’s also a very versatile food, combining foods that you might otherwise not eat together. However, the name implies something else. There’s a misconception that fruits with nuts inside are uncommon and exotic. In reality, they’re still very easy to find in supermarkets – you’ll even find them in your local grocery store.
Fruits Called Nuts
Not all nuts fit the above definition. In fact, Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language (1970) also defines a nut as a foolish, crazy or eccentric person, or one of the two testicles in a male. Many so-called botanical nuts are more appropriately termed “drupes” or “dry drupes.” These “false nuts” are really the seed-bearing, hard, inner layer (endocarp) of a fruit called a drupe. In dry drupes the outer layer or husk sometimes splits open or withers. This outer husk is part of the ovary wall (pericarp), and the hard inner wall surrounding the seed represents the inner part of the pericarp. Dry drupes are technically not true nuts because in true nuts the hard outer wall constitutes the entire pericarp. The coconut (Cocos nucifera) is a classic example of a dry drupe, with a thin, green, outer layer called the exocarp, a thick, fibrous middle layer called the mesocarp, and a very hard inner layer surrounding the large seed called an endocarp. These same three layers are easily visible in fleshy drupes such as the peach (Prunus persica), plum (P. domestica), and apricot (P. armeniaca). Unshelled almonds (P. amygdalus) are seeds still contained within an endocarp layer.
Almond & Peach: Rose Family (Rosaceae)
|The pit of a peach (Prunus persica) showing the seed that is contained inside the hard, woody endocarp layer. The endocarp is the inner layer of the fruit wall or pericarp. It is surrounded by a fleshy mesocarp and a thin outer skin or exocarp. Fruits with a distinct endocarp layer surrounding the seed are called drupes. The endocarp protects and aids in the dispersal of the vulnerable seed, especially when it is swallowed by a hungry herbivore.|
|The fresh, greenish fruit of an almond (Prunus amygdalus) contains the familiar one-seeded endocarp (unshelled almond) that is commonly sold in supermarkets during the holiday season. Each hard-shelled endocarp contains a single seed.|
Other examples of drupes include date palm nuts (Phoenix dactylifera) and pistachio nuts (Pistacia vera). There is still considerable disagreement and controversy over the classification of some of these so-called nuts, particularly English walnuts (Juglans regia), black walnuts (J. nigra), and macadamia nuts (Macadamia integrifolia & M. tetraphylla). Botanists have devised all sorts of ingenious names for these “borderline nuts,” such as dry drupe, drupe-like, drupaceous, drupaceous nut, and nutty drupe. Some readers may think the author of this essay has been driven to a mental condition with the same spelling as the plural of nut.
Mango, Pistachio & Gum Mastic: Sumac Family (Anacardiaceae)
|The mango (Mangifera indica) is a drupe with an outer leathery skin (exocarp), a fleshy mesocarp and a hard, stony endocarp (pit) surrounding the large seed. Wave-worn, sun-bleached endocarps often wash ashore on tropical beaches, probably thrown overboard from ships and boats at sea.|
|Pistachio (Pistacia vera), a dioecious tree in the sumac family (Anacardiaceae). It is native to the eastern Mediterranean region and central Asia where it has been cultivated for over 3,000 years. Like the almond, the fruit is drupaceous with a fleshy, greenish outer layer (exocarp and mesocarp) surrounding the hard, seed-bearing shell or endocarp. The seed has a papery seed coat and two greenish cotyledons. Commercial pictachio “nuts” are split, seed-bearing endocarps with the surrounding, fleshy fruit wall removed. The roasted, salted, greenish seeds are eaten raw and are the delectable ingredient in ice creams, cakes and nougat candies. Another species called Chinese pistache (P. chinensis) is commonly cultivated in southern California for its beautiful reddish autumn foliage.|
|Unlike other species of Pistacia, the endocarps of edible pistachios (Pistacia vera), naturally split open at maturity. This is a very desirable characteristic for pistachio growers because the delicious seeds can easily be removed from the shell; however, some trees produce many endocarps that don’t split. There are several hypotheses concerning “shell splitting,” including harvest time, irrigation, Boron nutrition, dormant pruning, and parental genotypes. This phenomen is discussed by V.S. Polito and K. Pinney (1999): “Endocarp Dehiscence in Pitachio (Pistacia vera L.)” Int. J. Plant Sci. Vol. 160 (5): 827-835. According to Polito and Pinney, endocarp splitting also involves forces exerted by the enlargement of the kernel (seed) and apical dehiscence by cell separation.|
|Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis), a dioecious tree in the sumac family (Anacardiaceae). Native to China, Taiwan and the Philippine Islands, it is grown in southern California for its colorful compound (even pinnate) leaves during the autumn months and its bright red “berries.” The red “berries” are actually small, one-seeded drupes which are not edible. A related species from the eastern Mediterranean region (P. lentiscus) is the source of “gum” mastic, an oleoresin used in perfumes, chewing gums, pharmaceuticals, dental adhesives, and in high grade varnishes for protecting pictures. Mastic is one of the oldest known high grade resins utilized by people, and it is extensively cultivated on the Greek island of Chios.|
|Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis) photographed in November at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. This tree produces some of the most spectacular red autumn foliage of any species in southern California. In fact, the fall coloration is reminiscent of deciduous trees of the eastern United States.|
|Gum mastic or “Chios Tears,” raw resin globules from the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus). Mastic is one of the oldest known high grade resins utilized by people, and it is extensively cultivated on the Greek island of Chios. Mastic resin (technically an oleoresin) is used in perfumes, chewing gums, pharmaceuticals, in high grade varnishes for protecting pictures, and in adhesives for dental caps.|
|An ant entombed in a resin globule from the mastic tree (Pistacia lentiscus). The insect-bearing resins of some trees become buried in the soil and gradually polymerize into amber.|
Are Nuts Fruits?
Nuts are one of the most popular snack foods. They’re not only tasty but also good for you, especially when it comes to heart health.
However, you may wonder which food group nuts belong to — fruits or vegetables?
This article digs into the details.
The difference between fruits and vegetables
To understand whether nuts are vegetables or fruits, it’s important to understand the differences between these two food groups.
Fruits and vegetables are divided into botanical and culinary classifications.
Botanical classification is based on the structure and functions of plants. While fruits grow from the flowers of plants and have seeds for reproduction, vegetables are all other parts of the plant, including the roots, stems, and leaves.
On the other hand, culinary classification depends on taste. In this case, fruits tend to be sweet or tart and work best in desserts, snacks, smoothies, pastries, or juices. Conversely, vegetables are mild, savory, or bitter and work better in sides, stews, soups, salads, and casseroles.
Botanically, fruits grow from the flowers of plants and contain seeds, while vegetables are the plant’s other parts. Yet, from a culinary perspective, fruits are sweet or tart, while vegetables are mild, savory, or bitter.
Are nuts fruits or vegetables?
Botanically, nuts are classified as a fruit that has a single edible seed with a hard, inedible outer shell. They’re considered indehiscent, which means that their shell doesn’t open when ripe.
However, a lot of foods that people consider nuts are really the seeds of drupes — fruits whose flesh surrounds a single shell with a seed inside.
For example, almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, pistachios, pine nuts, and most other nuts are botanically the seeds of drupes.
Meanwhile, true nuts include chestnuts, acorns, and hazelnuts.
Interestingly, peanuts — one of the most popular nuts in the world — are technically a legume and thus botanically a vegetable. However, peanuts’ nutrient profile and characteristics are closer to that of other nuts.
Nutritionally, most nuts’ nutrient composition resembles legumes rather than fruit due to their high protein content.
From a culinary perspective, the term “nuts” is more relaxed and in line with what most people think are nuts — large, oily kernels found within a shell.
Botanically, most nuts are the seeds of a fruit, while true nuts — such as chestnuts, acorns, and hazelnuts — are fruits in and of themselves. Peanuts are the exception, as they’re legumes — and thus technically vegetables.
Incorporating nuts into your diet
Although most nuts are botanically considered seeds, they’re still very healthy.
Nuts are an excellent source of plant-based protein, fat, fiber, antioxidants, and key vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, magnesium, copper, and selenium.
In addition, they have been linked to many health benefits, such as reduced inflammation and improved heart health, blood sugar control, and digestion.
Current dietary guidelines in the United States treat nuts as a protein source rather than fruits or vegetables due to their high protein content
However, as nuts are also high in calories, 0.5 ounces (14 grams) of nuts or seeds is considered equivalent to 1 ounce (28 grams) of other protein sources, such as meat, poultry, eggs, or seafood.
As such, you should eat nuts in small portions and in place of other protein-rich foods
Nuts are versatile and can be enjoyed whole, chopped, or as nut butters. They’re widely available and can be bought roasted, raw, salted, unsalted, and flavored.
That said, some packaged varieties harbor additives, including salt, sugar, and preservatives. Thus, it’s best to check the ingredient list and choose raw or dry-roasted options when possible.
Nuts are a scrumptious food loaded with protein, healthy fat, fiber, and several vitamins and minerals. They’re best consumed in moderation due to their high calorie count.
12 Types of Edible Nuts
A versatile culinary ingredient that packs a fiber punch, nuts form the basis of everything from vegan cheese to alternative milks, and they’re great as a snack on their own.
What Is a Nut?
A nut is a dry fruit with a single edible seed surrounded by a tough outer shell that does not split open to release its seed upon maturity. These botanical nuts, or true nuts, include chestnuts, hazelnuts, and pine nuts. Other common nuts like almonds and pecans are technically drupes, a type of fruit that has an edible seed enclosed in a shell surrounded by fleshy fruit. The peanut, one of the most popular nuts, is not a true nut; it actually belongs to the legume family alongside peas and lentils
5 Types of True Nuts
These edible seeds all have tough outer shells that do not crack open when they fall to the ground during harvesting. There are many different types of nuts, including:
1. Chestnuts: Chestnut trees are part of the beech family. European chestnuts (sweet chestnuts), Chinese chestnuts, and Japanese chestnuts are the most commonly eaten varieties.
2. Hazelnuts: Hazelnuts are small tree nuts, but they pack a lot of flavor. You can use hazelnuts to make Italian gianduja and Belgian pralines, and they pair especially well with chocolate.
3. Macadamia nuts: Macadamia nuts are native to Australia. Growers harvest them after they drop to the ground. Indigenous Australians were the first to eat the round, difficult-to-cultivate nuts. Macadamia nuts are especially popular in white chocolate macadamia nut cookies.
4. Pine nuts: Famous for their role in classic Italian pesto, pine nuts have a rich, buttery flavor that develops further upon toasting. Growers have to pry the nuts out of the pinecones, making them incredibly labor-intensive to harvest.
Huge List of the 20 Different Types of Nuts and Seeds
Quicklist: Types of Nuts and Seeds
- Macadamia Nuts
- Brazil Nuts
- Sunflower Seeds
- Kola Nuts
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Flax Seeds
- Cedar Nuts
- Pine Nuts
- Ginkgo nuts
I’m nuts about nuts. I eat them daily. My favorite is the cashew, but peanuts are also a personal preference. Yes, I know, peanuts are technically a legume, but we’ve included them here because they’re often considered a nut.
For our casual readers looking for a healthy snack alternative, you might be asking, “What exactly is a nut?”. Nuts are scientifically considered fruit. They evolved a hard shell to protect the seed that’s inside.
I’m also wild about various nut butters including peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, tahini and sunflower butter. We cook with these butters as well as eat them with apples or on bread.
Our extensive look at everything nuts includes photos of their growing environment, information charts and nutrition facts.
Types of Edible Nuts (and some seeds)
Cashews are grown primarily in the wet and dry tropics: native to Brazil and Venezuela, Portuguese colonists exported plants to India, Southeast Asia and Africa in the 16th century.
The nuts grow on trees as part of the cashew fruit. Cashews require special care to prepare for eating as its outermost shell is full of a caustic liquid that can cause severe burns if placed in direct contact with the skin.
There are multiple ways to extract the tasty nut without getting the juice on you. They can be frozen and then separated from the shell with gloves or they can also be roasted on oil to separate the nut from the shell. Cashews are used in a variety of ways, due to their benefits as an antioxidant. They are also rich in magnesium, which helps with joint flexibility.
Peanuts are grown in the warm climates of Asia, North America, South America, Africa and Australia. Native to South America, where a wild form grows in Argentina and Bolivia, the plant was spread worldwide trough European colonization.
The peanut actually grows below ground, contrary to popular belief. The plant flowers above ground, and the peanuts grow under the soil. To prepare peanuts for consumption, they should be harvested and washed, and left to dry in the sun. They can be shelled at the time of harvesting, or the shell left on to be removed later. Once shelled, they are ready to eat. Some people prefer roasting them or boiling them and adding seasoning for flavor.
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Peanuts are a staple in the diets of many cultures, including the satay peanut sauces of Indonesia and Thailand, where they are a major ingredient in signature dishes. Salty, roasted peanuts are an essential street food item in India. One of the most well-known uses of peanuts is peanut butter, which was first introduced in North America in the late 19th century. They are also commonly found in their whole form in baked goods, granola and trail mix.
3. Macadamia Nuts
Native to Australia, macadamia nuts were first grown commercially in Hawaii in the early 20th century, but they can now also be found in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Hawaii is the world’s leading producer of the rich, buttery nut, followed by Australia and South Africa. Macadamia nuts are increasingly becoming an essential commodity in South Africa, as well as Kenya, where over the past decade they have become the fastest growing tree crop industry.
They grow in large bushy trees that may take five years to begin producing nuts. In terms of preparation, the nuts should be shelled within 24 hours of harvest to prevent mildew. Macadamia nuts are a good source of Vitamin A, protein, and iron, among other minerals. One of the most famous recipes is for macadamia nut cookies. It is also used in granola, fudge, muffins, or in macadamia nut crusted chicken.
Archeological finds show that hazelnuts were an essential component in hunter-gatherer diets thousands 0f years ago in both Asia and Europe. They are now commonly grown in many parts of the world with 25% of the global supply used by Italian confectioner Ferrero in their Nutella hazelnut spread and Ferrero Rocher chocolates.
Hazelnuts are a very hardy plant, and typically grow in medium-sized bushy trees. Once the nuts are picked, they need to begin drying out within 24 hours of harvest. They can be kept for months with the shells left on, but if shelled for human consumption should be used within a few weeks.
Hazelnuts are rich in monounsaturated oil, as well as vitamins and minerals. They are commonly used in conjunction with chocolate to make desserts, such as chocolate truffles. They are also found in coffee flavoring, and accompanying savory dishes.
Pecans, the only tree nut indigenous to North America, are commercially grown in the southern U.S. and northern Mexico. Growing wild in groves along the banks of the Mississippi River, or farmed in orchards, the plants can take seven to 10 years to begin producing fruit.
Pecans, of the hickory genus, are frequently harvested by shaking the trees or gathering the nuts from the ground. The nuts will need to be dried for at least two weeks in their shells. Many people prefer to shell and roast them, as well.
Pecans contain monounsaturated fats and are rich in antioxidants. They are essential to southern cooking, including the ubiquitous pecan pie, as well as adding the crunch to chocolate Turtles.
Native to Iran and the eastern Mediterranean, almond trees have been cultivated for thousands of years. The majority of the world’s almonds are now grown in California with Spain, Iran and Morocco also producing significant crops.
Almond drupes are grown on trees similarly to pecans and walnuts. While you can eat an almond fresh from the tree, its best to let them dry out for at least two weeks first to maximize flavor and minimize mold on the almond. After drying they can be shelled and eaten. Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats, protein and vitamins. They are useful in dishes such as almond-crusted chicken, in salads, and in cereals.
Pistachio trees are hardy plants native to the desert regions of Central Asia, including Iran and Afghanistan. In the United States they are primarily grown in California, Arizona and New Mexico.
While pistachios can be eaten raw and washed, they can also be roasted and salted. High in protein, fiber, and vitamins pistachios are star ingredients in dishes such as spumoni, baklava and kulfi. California’s Táche has recently begun marketing Pistachio Milk as a plant-based alternative to dairy.
8. Brazil Nuts
Brazil nuts grow on large trees in the Amazon rainforests of Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia and Peru. The trees can take almost two decades to produce fruit which has hindered commercial domestication. Exporting still depends on an indigenous economy of traditional communities collecting nuts after they have fallen from the trees, which helps support the tribes and sustain the rainforest.
Brazil nuts can be eaten raw or blanched, however they have a hard shell that needs cracked to get to the edible seed. They are a great source of protein, vitamins, selenium, niacin, calcium and iron. South Americans find many uses for the nuts in their cooking, including sauces, desserts, sorbets and smoothies.
Greeks, Romans and Persians all cultivated walnut trees. The two most common species originated in Persia and eastern North America (black walnut), respectively. The trees can grow over 100 feet tall and establish deep root systems.
Walnuts can be eaten raw, or roasted and seasoned. Rich in antioxidants and Omega-3s, they are very popular in Central Asian and Mediterranean dishes. In Persian cuisine they have often been combined with pomegranates as a contrasting ingredient. Specific indigenous American tribes have traditionally used black walnuts extensively in their food and for other purposes.
Chestnuts have been a major source of nutrition for many cultures over thousands of years. The Greeks and Romans cultivated wide-spreading chestnut trees that originated around the Caucasus region of the Black Sea. In Turkey there are trees today that are over 1,000 years old.
Up until the beginning of the 20th century there were four main species of chestnuts: European, American, Chinese and Japanese. The American species completely disappeared when a chestnut blight, introduced in 1904, destroyed “the giants of the Appalachian hardwood forests” (3.5 billions of trees on millions of acres) over a 40-year period.
Chestnuts, which must be cooked before eating, are a good source of many vitamins, antioxidants, fiber and minerals.