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Tips for buying nuts

Autumn is the time for buying fresh nuts, especially in their shells. There are all sorts, from walnuts and pecans to cashews and macademias. But you need to take a little care to avoid buying rancid or moldy nuts.


Because of their relatively high fat content, nuts quickly go rancid. Nuts that have been ground or chopped are particularly susceptible, so if you're planning to keep your nuts any length of time, buy whole nuts. Make sure they're clean and undamaged and don't smell musty. Avoid packages with nuts that look dark or damaged. If you're buying loose nuts and you're doubtful about the quality, ask to have one cracked for you to test taste. Then you can see whether the flesh is white, which means the nut is fresh. The yellower the flesh, the older the nut. Or try shaking the nut; if the kernel rattles around inside, then it's dried and old. Of course, for coconuts the opposite applies; the more the fluid inside sloshes around, the fresher the coconut.

Packaging and best-by dates

The packaging also influences how long nuts keep fresh. Plastic packaging tends to collect moisture, resulting in mould. So if you're buying nuts in their shells, look for the ones that are sold in a net or a wooden box; this is also a good way to store them at home. It's perfectly all right to buy ground, chopped or flaked nuts in plastic bags, because you won't be keeping them so long. Check the use-by date carefully, once past that date the taste or colour, and also the nutrient value, of the nuts may deteriorate. But trust your own senses too – even after the best-by date, as long as nut products look, smell and taste all right, you can still use them.

Tips for cracking nuts

Cracking hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds or even peanuts is time-consuming but fun. If you sometimes encounter a particularly stubborn nut, simply put it in the freezer for an hour or so. The cold changes the structure of the shell and makes it far easier to crack. Opening a coconut is a little more complicated, but the result is worth it. First knock a clean nail into two of the three "eyes", the dark spots at one end of the coconut, and balance the nut over a bowl so that the coconut water can drain off as air flows in through the other open eye. Then hold the coconut still with one hand while you hit it with a hammer all the way around until it cracks open. The white flesh inside can be cut into strips. It's most delicious eaten fresh.


These methods don't work with macadamia nuts. You'll need a special tool for them and, quite honestly, it's far easier to buy them ready shelled.


Source: Dr. Claudia Müller, www.aid.de