As our readers know we are talking about nuts this week and we thought we would look at the whole wide world of nuts this Wednesday.
Is a Coconut really a nut? Botanically speaking, a coconut is a fibrous one-seeded drupe, also known as a dry drupe. However, when using loose definitions, the coconut can be all three: a fruit, a nut, and a seed. Botanists love the classification of things.
Can I be allergic to Coconuts? If you have a nut allergy, you need to talk to your doctor about what foods to avoid. Even though a coconut isn't a nut, some people who are allergic to tree nuts (like almonds, cashews, and walnuts) are also allergic to coconut. But others are not.
So talk to your doctor to see if coconut is OK for you. Until then, avoid coconut.
Almonds are not nuts. In fact, an almond is the seed of the fruit of the almond tree. This tree bears fruits with a “stone-like” seed within.
Fruits with these characteristics are called “drupes”. Specifically, a drupe is a fruit that has an outer fleshy part surrounding a shell that contains a seed. Other drupes include fruits from walnut trees and coconut trees.
Walnuts are rounded, single-seeded stone fruits of the walnut tree commonly used for the meat after fully ripening. Following full ripening, the removal of the husk reveals the wrinkly walnut shell, which is usually commercially found in two segments (three-segment shells can also form). During the ripening process, the husk will become brittle and the shell hard. The shell encloses the kernel or meat, which is usually made up of two halves separated by a partition. The seed kernels – commonly available as shelled walnuts – are enclosed in a brown seed coat which contains antioxidants. The antioxidants protect the oil-rich seed from atmospheric oxygen, thereby preventing rancidity.
And of course we all know the story of the peanut. Peanuts actually grow underground, as opposed to nuts like walnuts, almonds, etc. that grow on trees (and are sometimes referred to as "tree nuts"). Peanuts, along with beans and peas, belong to the single plant family, Leguminosae. Legumes are edible seeds enclosed in pods.
So what makes a nut a “nut?” A nut is defined botanically as a fruit composed of a hard shell and a seed, where the shell does not open to release the seed (indehiscent). In a culinary context, a wide variety of dried seeds are often called nuts, but in a botanical context, only ones that include the indehiscent fruit are considered true nuts.
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