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Guide to Nuts & Seeds

We’re Going Nuts!

We can’t contain our enthusiasm any longer! Nuts and seeds — raw, toasted, puréed or ground into flour — add flavor, nutrition and texture to just about anything we put them in. Even better, consistent evidence shows that all manner of nuts, including walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans and cashews, promote healthy arteries and cholesterol levels when we consume them in moderation. Eating a small handful of nuts about five times a week is perfect.

We carry an abundant variety of nuts in our bulk department. Packaged nuts — in jars, cans or bags — are also readily available. After all, we think you can’t have enough nuts and seeds lying around for cooking and snacking!

Dictionary: Nuts and Seeds

It’s tough to narrow down our list of favorite nuts and seeds, but we’ll do our best. Here are a number of healthful ones that we think should have a place in your pantry:

Almonds: Thankfully calcium-rich, sweet almonds — sold whole, shelled, raw, blanched, sliced, slivered, dry-roasted, you name it — are available year round.

Brazil Nuts: Brazil nuts only come from magnificent, large trees that grow wild in the Amazon rain forest. Similar to coconut in texture, the sweet, rich meat of Brazil nuts is eaten raw or roasted.

Cashews: The cashew tree is related to poison ivy and poison sumac, but don’t be afraid! This rich, curved nut — which is actually lower in total fat than most nuts — is always a crowd favorite and particularly flavorful in cookies and cakes.

Chestnuts: The lowest in fat of all nuts, chestnuts are appreciated for their flavorful contribution to soups, stuffing and stews as well as the holiday tradition of eating them roasted. Chestnuts are available fresh only in autumn, but dried, canned and pureed versions are available year round. (Try classic chestnut stuffing to remind you just how good they really are.)

Flax Seeds: Flax seeds are the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids and are high in fiber to boot. While they’re identical nutritionally, brown flax seeds have deep, nutty flavor while golden flax seeds are mild. Add either to breads, cookies and smoothies or sprinkle on cereal and salads. (Try this whole grain flax seed pancake mix and you’ll forget all about those other pancakes.)

Hazelnuts (a.k.a. Filberts): Bakers and confectioners are partial to these nutrient dense nuts — which can be made into butter, flour, oil and paste — because their rich flavor and texture lend themselves so well to desserts and snack foods.

Hemp Seeds: Hemp seeds are a healthful food with an omega 3 profile very similar to flax seeds. They’re also similar in flavor to sunflower or flax seeds and can be used in or on baked goods, salads, yogurt and cereal.

Macadamia Nuts: These sinfully rich and creamy nuts have the highest fat profile of all nuts and are among the most expensive ones available.

Peanuts: Peanuts — which are actually legumes, not nuts at all — originated in South America but have become an important crop throughout the tropics and in the southern half of the U.S. They have a good deal of both protein and fiber.

Pecans: These natives to the southern Mississippi River valley are buttery and slightly bittersweet. They’re stand-outs in pies, quick breads, cakes, cookies, candies and ice cream.

Pine Nuts: Pine nuts — also called pinolos, pignon or pignoli nuts — are exactly what you think; they’re the edible seeds of pine trees. These delicious little nuts are the essential ingredient in fresh pesto and are out-of-sight sprinkled over salads.

Pistachios: Pistachios have beige shells with nuts that range from dull yellow to deep green. Primarily sold as a snack food, they’re easily adaptable to recipes where pecans or other nuts are used. (Want to make a pistachio-fueled splash? Serve milk chocolate panna cotta with blood oranges and pistachios .

Pumpkin Seeds (a.k.a. Pepitas): Roasted pumpkin seeds are commonly eaten in casseroles, salads, soups and breads. Their rich, peanut-like flavor makes them a terrific snack food.

Sesame Seeds: Sesame seeds are frequently sprinkled on breads and cakes as a form of decoration, but they’re delicious and good-looking on just about anything. Look for black or white sesame seeds in our bulk department and grocery aisles.

Sunflower Seeds: Sunflowers belongs to the daisy family and are native to North America. Their shelled seeds are delicious eaten raw or toasted, added to cakes and breads or sprinkled on salads or cereals.

Walnuts: Walnuts have come into greater favor recently because they contain omega-3 fatty acids, a heart-healthy compound. In addition to their purported health benefits, walnuts add texture and toothsome flavor to pastas, salads, stir fries and desserts.

Tips for Toasting

While nuts and seeds are certainly delicious eaten raw, toasting them brings out a tastier, richer flavor. To enhance their flavor or crisp them up, toast nuts on the stove or in the oven.

On the stove: Place a single layer of nuts in a heavy, ungreased skillet and toast for 5 to 10 minutes over medium heat, shaking the pan and stirring the nuts until they’re golden brown and fragrant, then remove them from the pan immediately and let cool.

In the oven: Arrange the nuts in a single layer in a shallow baking pan and toast in a 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring them occasionally.

Did you know?

Nature’s protective coating on hard-shelled seeds, such as flax seeds, prevents the body from absorbing nutrients. To get maximum nutrition, grind them into a powder with a coffee grinder or seed mill before eating.

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