Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Winter Evenings - Time for Nuts and Candy! Take the Nuts!

Now is the time of nuts. Winter evenings and bowls with candy and nuts on the candle-lit coffee table - what do you like? Candy? Nuts? This is a difficult choice! Take the nuts. ( More nuts than candy anyway!) Nuts are healthy, they are filling, they give you new energy and the important healthy fat. Nuts have lots of positive effects on our health and the ability of our immune defence to protect us against diseases.

Nuts were used as food and oil for centuries as early as 200 years B.C.,  and the Romans used sugar glazed almonds at special occassions.

The walnut tree grows wild in the forests and thickets of the Danish woods, but it is als a common garden tree. Since Denmark is the northernest country of the walnut tree's existence, the fruits are many in some years and almost none in others. The walnut origins from Asia minor, where it still grows wild. From here it has spread to southern Europe and further to the USA. In Asia it has spread via Iran to China - and today China, USA and Turkey are the largest producers of walnuts. Walnut is mostly plant as a fruit-tree, but the wood is very sought-after for furniture and rifle butts. Both Italy, England and France work with a very fast growing walnut. The cultivation-purpose is timber production.

Walnuts remind about a small brain. The colour of the walnut-shell reveals the quality, a light shell is high quality.The taste of the nut is sweet and mild, if not, it is too old. Unfortunately nuts sold in shops are often too old, and their taste is strong and rancid. Put fresh, cracked nuts into the freezer. Durability ab. 8 months. Walnuts are ripe when they fall out of the green capsule. Unripe walnuts are plucked in summer, about 20. July.

walnut tree, photo: grethe bachmann
The garden walnuts can be dried in a boiler room or in a warm cellar, but they can also be eaten fresh. They have like most other nuts a short validity before they go mouldy or rancid because of the high fat content. It is a good idea to keep them in a freezer. Walnuts are proclaimed the healthiest among nuts -  they contain more antioxidants and more of the healthy fat which is good for the heart than other nuts. Eat about 7 walnuts a day in order to obtain the benefits.

Walnuts are especially known from walnut-bread and as a decoration on cakes and in cheese arrangements - and in pies and salads (like Waldorf-Salad -  hello, Basil Fawlty!). But they are also - like most nuts and like almonds - a part of the salt-kitchen, like used in vegetarian dishes, patés or in a sauté with plums and walnuts in Balsamico as an accompaniment for game and roasts.  Walnut produces also a well-tasting and very expensive oil. The green fruits are very popular in spice snaps.

Pickled green walnuts 
1 kilo unripe walnuts
750 gram sugar 4 dl water
½ bottle brown rum
Newly plucked walnuts pricked with a rough needle.  Put into cold water for 12-14 days. Water must be changed each day. The last day boil them under lid until they are tender, drip off and put into a glass. Cook a pickle of sugar and water, pour it over the nuts and stir it daily for a week. Sieve out the pickle and cook it about 15 minutes with a piece of cinnamon or a vanilla pod. Add half a bottle of brown rum and pour the warm pickle over the nuts.

hazelnuts, stig bachmann nielsen naturplan foto
Hazel is common in Denmark along hedges and in the edge of woods, and it grows in many gardens and parks. It's possible to pluck hazelnuts en masse. They taste extremely well. If hazelnuts have to be preserved, they must be ripe when they are plucked, or else their taste is not good and they mould easily. The nuts are ripe, when the shell is nut-brown and fall out of the hulls by themselves. Hazelnuts are rich in folat, which is a B-vitamin, and rich in vitamin E, in calcium, magnesium and potassium. They are very energy-rich and with a high fat-content, more than half is fat and the rest is hydrocarbonate and protein. Hazelnuts were basic
food since Stone Age.

Hazel was introduced by man very early, and the long thin stems were used for fishing-traps, hedges etc. Hazel was a popular winter food since before the time of agriculture; the nuts were found as grave gifts in very early graves, and scientists are of the opinion that the hunter-gather people deliberately did sowe hazel overall where they came. Hazel is cultivated in most of Europe and in countries like China, Australia and USA. Hazelnuts are an ingrediense in Nutella. The biggest problem of nuts bought in shops is that they are often too old and rancid or mould. So it is a good idea to look for the production-date. Most dried nuts come from Turkey. The dried hazelnuts from shops should be kept in the freezer, where they last for a year.

Hazelnuts are good both in cooking and baking. Coarsely chopped or crushed hazelnuts can be stirred into a paté or be a part of a breading of meat or fish. Hazelnuts are a delicious part of a salad. They can be roasted in the oven or in the pan which brings out the fine taste. If the nuts have turned dull and dry they can be saved if they are put into water for a few hours.

Not all nuts are nuts but we call them nuts:
Almonds are rich in vitamin E, folic acid and blood pressure-submerging minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, phospor and iron. 28 gram contains as much calcium as 1/4 cup of milch and is one of the best foods of vitamin E in the form of alpha-tocopherol, which is a cancer-preventive antioxidant. Almond is the kernel in green fruits from the almond tree. The tree supposedly origins from Asia, but is cultivated today overall , like in the Mediterraneans, Central Asia and Africa. Almonds are especially used in making marzipan for desserts, cakes and burnt almonds, but it is also a part of the salt kitchen. Almonds have a high fat content of the healthy fats, and their durability is short, so they are best kept in the freezer. Besides common almonds are bitter almonds, which even in small amounts bring out the characteristic almond taste in marzipan and Italian Amaretto liqueur. The bitter almonds contain small amounts of the poisonous substance amygdalin, which chemically is a precursor of prussic acid. It is not dangerous in small amounts.  

Cashew-nuts  are an excellent source of copper and a good source of magnesium, iron, zinc and biotin, which is a water-soluble  B-vitamin, which among other things can regulate the sugar transformation. They come from India, East Africa and South America. A cashew-nut is an "excrescence" under the fruit of the cashew tree. The nuts are always sold without shell, since the shell has a corroding oil, which irritates the skin. Cashew nuts are sold as they are or salted and roasted; they are mostly sold as snacks, but are also a part of many Thai dishes and other Asian dishes.
Pecan nuts are a good source of both vitamin A, vitamin E, folic acid, copper, magnesium, phosphor, potassium, manganese, zinc and B 3. The pecan nut reminds about a large walnut, which family it belongs to. Pecan nuts origin from USA, which has the biggest export of pecan nuts in the world. It is one of the crops, which is connected to the original food of the Native Americans. They are sold dried and roasted and salted and they are used in USA for the famous Pecan Pie and as a filling in cookies and ice cream. They have a fine, mild and special taste, which distinguishes them from other nuts. The pecan nuts can be used like most other nuts. They have got the highest fat content of all nuts, about 80 % ,which make them very nutrient rich. The main part is the healthy fat.

Macadamia nuts are rich in protein, fibres, potassium, magnesium and the healthy fats.They are used in snacks and cakes. They were first discovered in Australia. Hawaii is today the leading producer of the Macadamia-nuts. 

Peanuts are actually a legume and  contain mostly proteins. Peanuts and peanut butter contain furthermore much vitamin E, folat, potassium and zinc. Peanuts origin from South America, and they are the seeds from a tropical leguminous plant. They are used for snacks and cooking and production of oil.
The large Brazil nuts are rich in protein, copper, magnesium,  fibres, vitamin E and niacin, which are important for the energy transformation and the transformation of glucose, amino acids and fat. The Brazil nuts also contain a good part of selenium, which is famous for being an immune-enhancing mineral, which among other things protect against cancer. Two medium size Brazil nuts contain 200 microgram selenium.
Brazil nuts can widely be used like hazelnuts. They contain like all nuts much fat, about 60 %, mostly the healthy fats. They have a sweet taste. Like other nuts they should be kept in the freezer. The Brazil nuts are from a South American tree in the tropical rain forests of Brazil. They have coconut-like fruits with seeds, and they are actually not nuts in spite of their name. The nut is in Brazilian named "chestnut from Para", which is a town by the Amazone river. The Brazil nuts are especially exposed to contain aflatoxines, a poisonous substance, which comes from mould inside the nut.

The Pistachios are rich in minerals, especially potassium and phosphor. They are also a good source of carotenoids which is a strong antioxidant. The pistachio is a small light green nut with a dark red membrane. The pistachios origin from the Middle East ,where they were known since ancient times, and they are today a common snack in the Mediterranean, especially in Turkey and Greece. They taste mild and finely perfumed -  they have a content of 40-45 %  fat, primarily the healthy fats. They are found in two products,  as whole nuts with shell, salty and used as snacks and as the dried kernel without shell. The pistachios are in many ways a part of cakes and desserts. 

Pine nuts are small white fruits from the pines, the tall dark green conifers, which grow overall in southern Europe. They are called pignolia nuts or pinons in Spanish. The seeds are surrounded by an almost black, hard shell, which is difficult to remove - that's why the kilo price is high. They taste both sweet and sharp,  a little of resin. The pine nuts come especially from South Europe and Turkey and they are used in many contexts in salads, pasta, cakes and as snacks etc. They have like other nuts got a high fat content, about 40 % , but this is primarily healthy fat. The oil in the pine nut gets easily rancid, so they should be kept in the freeezer.

Although nuts ar healthy, the roasted and sugar glazed nuts are not!

Source: Anette Eckmann, Køkkendagbogen, 2004 ; VOM Viden om Mad; I Form Magasin 2011, Camilla Plum Mors Mad. 2002.


Wanda..... said...

You will find many nuts at my house Grethe, they are staples here, always in the fridge. Black walnuts grow wild on the property here, but I buy large bags of walnuts, almonds and pecans at Costco. At Thanksgiving pecans are put in the dressing and sweet potatoes and pistachios go in the green beans.

Now I have a craving for cashews, but I only buy them occasionally....I would eat them 'toooo' often!

Carolyn said...

G'evening, Grethe ́

I'm trying to eat vegetarian. I don't eat much meat anyway. Being an American necessitates a cheeseburger, however. ;)

Nuts are my mainstay. Walnuts, Pecans and Macadamias are my favorites.

I loved Fawlty Towers! I wish my PBS station still carried that comedy... I'm a British comedies fan ... my favorite now is Last of the Summer Wine...

Fun and great facts about the nuts!

Thyra said...

Hej Wanda! How wonderful to have the all those nuts by your house. I'll have to buy most nuts and they are not always good. Also buy the cashews!! I think I'll go buy some today. I'm out of nuts!!I'm sure you'll have a great Thanksgiving! I can see your table with all the good stuff!! Uhmmm.....
Grethe `)

Thyra said...

So you are a vegetarian, Carolyn! I'm not. If I don't get meat at least once a week I grow restless. But I try to balance a healthy diet. I love nuts, I love the pecan nuts too. We did not know pecan nuts here in DK until a few years ago. We'll take a "Wiener Pecan" (baked like a "Danish") with us out on tour each Saturday for our coffee out in the open. It tastes like heaven!
I love the British comedies too.
Love Fawlty Towers. One of my friends was in Wales a few years ago where they experienced a "Basil Fawlty" as the owner of the hotel where they stayed! Imagine that!
Grethe ´)

Out on the prairie said...

This time of year we prepare for Halloween so lots of candy around. I have lots of black walnuts but that is the only one to grow here. I use a variety in my cooking.

Those green pods in my post are osage oranges or hedge apples, an inedible fruit.They are used by some to ward off spiders in their basements.Native Americans used the wood for their bows.

Thyra said...

Hej Steve! We have copied you here in DK. The children have already put on their costumes. They can't wait. And the pumpkins are out on the stairs - yesterday I saw three in one place, one wore sunglasses. That was funny!
I don't know the black walnuts - or do I? Maybe the one in the park is a black walnut. The black nut is also green when young.Confusing.
Thank you Steve for telling me about those fine round hedge apples. They are special. So perfect, like a green ball.
Grethe ´)

Susan Blake said...

Hi Thyra! I bopped over from Carolyn's - so glad I did. I'm a huge fan of nuts. I loved your comment about walnuts looking like a small brain. I've read so much about that - like it was "done" on purpose by the Creator because they are a top food for the brain. Of all nuts, it's the best for brain food and I try to keep mine well nourished, haha.

Thyra said...

Hej Susan, thank you! I agree that the brain is an important part! HA! What would we do without it. We would go nuts!
Grethe ´)

CherylK said...

This is a great post, Grethe! So full of good information...I learned a lot! I love nuts, too, and don't really have a favorite although I'm not so fond of peanuts.

Thyra said...

Hej Cheryl, thank you! I think it's difficult to choose a favorite nut! They taste so good. And now my nut- cracker has gone to pieces! So I'll have to find a new one!
But I could buy some nuts-not-needed-cracking-nuts!
Grethe ´)

Teresa Evangeline said...

I love almost every nut, but am a little more partial to cashews. They are good for us, but calorie-laden. I try to keep it to small portions. Plus they've gotten awfully expensive, but now I think I need to have a little treat. :)
Great information you've shared here. Thank you!

Thyra said...

Hej Teresa! Thank you! Yes, it's difficult to choose. But it's good that the nuts are healthy food. Downtown in the supermarket today they had made a stand with all kinds of candy - both for Halloween and Christmas! It was very tempting, and it was of course placed where the children pass with their parents! I came home without any candy. I had to keep my diet! Took some nuts! ´)

Bill said...

Like most of the previous comments I also love nuts. The black walnut is native to North America, as are American Chestnuts (almost extinct). I am no expert in walnuts but many tell me the european version is a better quality nut.

There's a lot of interesting information here to digest! Especially as to the origin of most of these nuts. And thanks for clarifying which are nuts and which aren't. We have a lot of butternuts around here. A true nut.

Thyra said...

Hej Bill! I had to Google this you said about butternuts! But I'm not sure if you mean copperheads? `)

We've got peppernuts too in DK, small cakes shaped like hazelnuts and with spices like pepper, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom. I see that the English version is called gingerbread. Not quite the same though. Peppernuts are true Christmas nuts! And when you first starts eating those little peppernuts then they disappear like I don't know hwhat.

I think I'll read a little about the copperheads. Maybe I'm a copperhead!! A copperhead nut!

Thyra said...

I don't think I'm a copperhead, Bill! Knights of the Golden something...

I wondered where I had heard that name before. It was the copperhead-snake. That very poisonous one.


Thyra said...

Oh! I hope I haven't said anytihing wrong in my last comment. I'm sorry if I have.
Grethe ´(

Kittie Howard said...

Thanks for some really great information! I've got a weakness for cashews. *sighs* If only they weren't so fattening.

Hey, I don't see where you said anything wrong!!

Thyra said...

Thank you Kittie! Although nuts are fattening it's not so bad fpr us. Usually we don't eat so many, not every day!

Thank you, I really thought I had said something awfully foolish, and I was so sorry. I'm often so impulsive.
Grethe `)