The Truth About
Nuts are filthy, nondelicious liars! Nuts in a nutshell, are not nuts!
So what is true nuttiness? Well, to talk about nuts, we need to talk about fruit. “Fruit” is such a broad term, so lets avoid loins, looms, and cakes, and go straight to default grocery speak. When we talk about plums, peaches, and apricoty things we are actually referring to a kind of fruit, called:
a DRUPE – a plant structure with a fleshy outside surrounding a pit–a hard shell with a seed inside. Raspberries, blackberries, etc are drupes, it’s just that each berry is a cluster of mini-drupes, called drupelets (for adorability purposes), joined together in a group.
Don’t you love knowing that? And why can’t they make other fruits do that? If they can make seedless watermelon they can surely go all chihuahua on peaches and put out some peachberries.
The NonNut Blasphemies
Okay, so what’s a nut? Almost nothing! It’s about to get real in the Whole Nuts parking lot.
Almonds: Not a nut, a seed! From a drupe! Everyday almonds that we see are shelled (i.e. the shells are removed), we don’t usually see their hard casings.
But that’s not the end of it, in nature, that shell is surrounded by a fleshy, leathery, outer layer that’s green and fuzzy and kermity in flavor (in other words, inedible, because no one would eat Kermit). Making it, a drupe. A soft fruit, with a pit inside, with a seed inside. Almonds = a seed.
Pistachios: Not a nut, a seed! From a drupe! Comes in a fleshy skin, with a hard shell, with a seed inside. The part we eat is therefore a seed.
Getting the hang of this?
Brazil, Pecan, Hickory, Macadamia: same
Pine nut: same (although they are not from a drupe. They are just seeds at the end of certain Pine trees, which are gymnosperms (a word that means literally, “naked seed.”))
What about peanuts? Actually a legume.
Okay, WTF is a legume already?? 29 years I still don’t know this. You know what it is? A friggin pod. Technically, it’s a different kind of fruit, a nondrupe.
Specifically, the fruit (pod) of plants belonging to the bean family Fabaceae. You know how peanuts come in those softish shells found on the floors of rib roast restaurants? POD. Peanuts = legumes.
Nuts: The Elite Few
So..what ARE nuts? If you went to a nuthouse, would there be anything left to find?? Well my friends, like a drupe or a legume, a nut is simply another kind of fruit. Confused? Me too. F this explanation. Let us make like a digestive system and break it down.
Of the fruits:
If you’re a drupe, you have a soft outside.
If you’re a nut, you have a hard outside.
If you’re a legume, you have a pod outside (and are in the bean family or from outer space).
Really real true nuts come in those hard, pointy husks (literally giant burrs) that punish perfectly innocent bare feet in a supposedly harmless backyard.
That’s it?! That’s it. When we say ‘nut’, what we really mean is ‘seed’.
The biggest difference other than a useless, pointy, dangerous, and inedible skin, is that nuts are “indehiscent” – they don’t split open to expose the seed. In many nuts the seed is actually fused to the shell, which I think is pretty indehiscent of them.
You know how pistachios are split open all nice and convenient like that? They’re dehiscent. Legumes are dehiscent as well. They split, eventually.
SIDENOTE OF AWESOME: The best kind of dehiscency is explosive dehiscence: where the shell of the seed detonates and flings the seed out away from it. Plants exploding.
How is that not cool? Don’t Mexican jumping beans make so much more sense now? WRONG! In that case, a small grey moth inserts her larva inside the bean, it eats the bean, grows, and then throws itself against the capsule wall. Alright, well, nothing ruins a magic bean like larva. But I digress.
So basically, if the shell has a seam, where it would split eventually, it ain’t a nut.
So, what can we take away from this?
- Almond Joys do not have nuts. Mounds are still just kind of unsatisfying.
- Nutella is a bona fide nut product, as it’s derived from hazelnuts. It was invented during a time when cacao was highly rationed due to World War II, but hazelnuts were plentiful. Somebody was thinkin’…
- Nutter Butters = Legumer Butters
- Nutcracker, I don’t know what he’s cracking but it ain’t nuts.
According to a totally untrustworthy source, the Chinese consider the almond a “symbol of enduring sadness and female beauty.” Enduring sadness. And female beauty. I love that anything can symbolize enduring sadness. Enduring, really? Like a sadness that fights crime against all odds?
Are you Chinese? How do you feel about almonds? Send me your comments using the form below…
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My drupelets always travel in group (lets). Three cheers for the drupelets!
wow, so glad you cleared that up. i mostly eat seeds.
I know! I’ve had like, three true nuts in my whole life. Hazelnuts, they’re not even good really. Pretty name though. Much better than ‘wal’
There is some serious confusion around the topic of nuts in Spanish as well. On a recent hike some dude pointed out a nut (nuez) to me or I should say that spiny sea creature like thing you mentioned. I kept asking what kind of nuez. And he kept saying nuez. This was obvously one of those quirky language confusions. Then I realized none of the ¨nuts¨ here say nuez on the package. Instead ¨frutos secos¨ or dried fruits. Nuez is a specific type. So WTF, Spain has been duped into this nut conspiracy as well!
P.S. Sunflower seeds are called ¨pipas,¨ pronounced peepa. Isn´t that cheery? Pipa, pipa, pipa!
Nuez are apparently diverse in their duplicity. Pipa is the best word ever, I can almost imagine the anime card that goes with it. I would think that was pipe. Though if it’s the same word, I guess at least you know what you’re smoking