Nutrition: One ounce of almonds – usually 22 to 30 nuts, depending on size – contains about 160 calories, mostly from unsaturated fat in the nut’s oil. That oil also makes almonds a very good source of vitamin E. Rich in nutrients, almonds are a good source of protein, riboflavin, magnesium, manganese and calcium.
Selection: If you buy almonds in the shell, shake a few. If you hear a lot of rattling, that may signal shrinkage, which reveals almond aging. Older nuts can turn rancid. To check, slice the nut in half. It should appear solid white throughout. If the raw nut meat has turned yellow or developed a honeycomb texture, the almond is probably past its prime. One pound unshelled almonds yields about 1 1/4 cups of whole nuts. One pound of shelled nuts will make about 3 1/3 cups chopped almonds.
Storage: Almonds like a cool, dark, dry place to keep their taste and crunchy texture intact. An unopened package of natural almonds will keep up to two years, longer if frozen. After opening the package, transfer nuts to a jar or other airtight container and use almonds within three months. Shelled nuts may be refrigerated or frozen for up to two years without losing quality.
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Avoid exposing almonds to strong odors (such as onions or garlic). The nuts can absorb those odors if stored together for prolonged periods.
Resources: Sacramento-based Blue Diamond (www.bluediamond.com) offers almond recipes and tips. With bargains on bulk nuts and a wide selection of almond products, the Blue Diamond factory store is open to the public at 1701 C St., Sacramento; 916-446-8438. The Almond Board of California (www.almondboard.com) offers hundreds of recipes and tips plus easy-to-follow how-to videos.
Nutrition: One ounce of walnuts equals about 14 shelled halves. A high-density food, that ounce has 190 calories, including 18 grams of fat (1.5 grams saturated) and 4 grams of protein. It also contains 2.5 grams of alpha linolenic acid, the plant-based form of omega-3 fatty acids.
Selection: Look for shelled nuts that are brittle and snap when broken in half. Nuts that grew on the sunnier side of the tree have darker skins and richer flavor. Avoid rubbery or shriveled shelled walnuts; they’re old. Like almonds, walnuts in the shell that rattle are old, too. One pound of unshelled walnuts yields about 2 cups; one pound of shelled halves and pieces equals about 4 cups.
Storage: Freeze walnuts after shelling. That retains their freshness for up to 18 months. Refrigeration will tend to dry them out, but they’ll stay perfect in the freezer. If stored unshelled, they’ll keep for 2 1/2 to 3 months before their high fat content turns them rancid.
Resources: The California Walnut Board (www.walnuts.org) offers a wealth of recipes and tips.
Nutrition: One ounce of shelled pistachios contains 49 nut kernels and 159 calories, 108 from fat. Pistachios are high in protein, with 6 grams per ounce. They’re also a good source of dietary fiber and vitamin B6, vitamin E, thiamin, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese. The green nut meat and its surrounding red-purple husk are high in antioxidants including carotene, lutein and phenolic acid.
Selection: Pistachios are available year-round, although the fresh harvest arrives in stores in October. Under proper conditions, the raw nuts will keep for up to one year. Throughout the year, they’re roasted (and often salted) as needed for distribution. Look for healthy, compact, uniform nuts in off-white whole shells. The shells should be free from imperfections and unbroken or cracked except for the characteristic split. Inside their shells, the nuts should feel heavy when held in your hand. Avoid any nuts with dark mold spots or rancid smell. One pound of unshelled pistachios yields about 2 cups of nut kernels; one pound shelled equals 3 2/3 cups of nuts.
Storage: Raw, unshelled pistachios should be stored in a cool, dark place. They’ll keep for up to two months in their packaging. For longer storage, freeze in shell or as shelled kernels. Shelled kernels should be stored in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container.
Allergy alert: Pistachios may cause allergic reactions to people with sensitivity to anacardic acid or urushiol, which is found in pistachios. People who are allergic to mangoes or cashews also may be allergic to pistachios.
Resources: For more tips and recipes, click on www.americanpistachios.org.
Nutrition: One ounce contains 20 to 24 nuts and 176 calories, 142 from fat. Like other nuts, hazelnuts are high in dietary fiber. They’re also a good source of vitamin E, thiamin, iron, copper and manganese. Among tree nuts, they have the highest content of folate and proanthocyanidin.
Selection: Look for smooth, glossy brown shells without holes or cracks. The nuts should not rattle inside their shell. If shelled, the kernels should be plump and firm, not shriveled or rubbery (both signs of aging).
Storage: Place nuts in a closed airtight container and store in a cool, dry place for up to three months or refrigerate for up to six months. (Nuts may dry out in refrigerator.) May be frozen for up to a year.
Resources: For recipes, hazelnut suppliers and tips, go to the Oregon Hazelnut experts (www.oregonhazelnuts.org).
Nutrition: One ounce of pecans contains about 20 halves and 196 calories, 168 from fat. Pecans are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin E, manganese and thiamin.
Selection: In the shell, nuts should appear smooth, uncracked and unblemished. If shelled, look for plump, uniform nut meats.
Storage: Kept in a cool, dry place or refrigerated, unshelled pecans will stay fresh for four to five months. At room temperature, they may turn rancid after only two months. Shelled pecans will keep up to nine months refrigerated, and up to two years frozen. Keep them away from strong or smelly foods such as garlic; pecans easily absorb odors and other flavors.
Resources: The California Pecan Growers Association (www.californiapecangrowers.org) offers recipes.