Do you buy those little packets of nuts from the store? Either the mixed nuts or trail mix so you can pop them in your lunch box or carry them with you?
Guess what? Those nuts may not be true nuts at all! A nut is defined as dry fruit with one or occasionally two seed inside a dry hard case.
Real nuts grow on trees and include pecans, sweet chestnut, beech, acorns, alders, and hazel but the ones we usually classify as nuts such a peanuts, almonds, horse chestnuts, pistachio, cashews and pine nuts are not.
Most real nuts grow on trees but a peanut is actually a legume like and it forms underground in pods. A cashew actually forms on the bottom of the cashew apple and is normally grey in color. Walnuts are actually seeds that form and harden inside of a green husk while the pistachio nut is actually the seed of the pistachio tree. Almonds are also seeds but of the Almond tree.
Did you know the peanut used to be called a ground pea or ground nut but no one is sure how these names evolved into the word peanut. The peanut is a member of the legume family. The "nuts" grown underground in pods.
Cashews actually form on the bottom of the cashew apple. This gray extension is referred to as a drupe and is the tree's true seed. The cashew tree is related to mangoes, pistachios, and poison ivy. The apple is quite fragile and often fed to animals but it is an ingredient in Indian curries.
What about almonds? They are actually the edible seed of the almond tree. Almond trees produce a fruit that looks like a peach but when the fruit ripens, it dries and opens exposing the seeds for us to pick and eat.
Finally pistachios, those wonderful green "nuts" we love to scarf but are expensive. Pistachios grow in bunches much like grapes but only female trees produce the fruit every other year. To pick them, the tree is shaken so the product falls and is then used. If it is fully ripe, the hard shell bursts open. If the hard shell does not burst open, it indicates the fruit is not fully ripe.
So the next time you enjoy your mixed nuts, remember that over half the mix is made up of seeds and not nuts. Enjoy.