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Nuts are very nutritious. Ounce for ounce they are an excellent source of plant protein and contain no cholesterol. They are a good source of fiber, magnesium, iron, selenium, vitamin E and vitamin B.

Peanuts

Peanuts also known as groundnuts or monkey nuts originated in South America, probably in Brazil, and have been cultivated since ancient times by Native Americans. Plants grow about 75cm tall and spread 1.2m.

Peanuts are nutritious and high in energy. The seeds contain 40 to 50 per cent oil and 20 to 30 per cent protein and they are an excellent source of B vitamins.

Pistachios

The pistachio tree is a small tree about 6m tall. It is native to western Asia and is now cultivated in southern Europe, northern Africa, California and many other places.

Historically pistachios date back to the Holy Lands of the Middle East, where they grew wild in high desert regions. According to legend. lovers met beneath the trees to hear the pistachios crack open on moonlit nights for the promise of good fortune. Pistachios were a favourite of the Queen of Sheba who hoarded the entire Assyrian supply for herself and her court.

Cashews

The Cashew tree was native to the Americans and is now widely cultivated in Asia (especially India) and Africa for its nuts and other products. It grows as high as 12m and has oval leathery leaves.

The trunk of the tree yields a milky gum also used to make varnish. The tree carries a pear-shaped fruit called cashew apple which is reddish or yellowish. At the end of each fruit is the nut with a hard double shell. Between the shells is a caustic black oil which has to be removed by a special roasting process. This oil is then used in the plastics and varnish industries. Another roasting removes the second shell, freeing the nut. called Anacardium occidentale or better known among its friends as cashew nut.

Almonds

Almonds are now grown in many of the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea including Spain, Italy, Portugal and Morocco. They are also harvested in California, the only state in the U.S. where they are grown commercially. Almond trees were originally brought to California in the mid-1700s by the Franciscan monks. Today, California is one of the world leaders in almond production.

Almonds trees are closely related to the peach and plum that bears fragrant pink and white flowers.

They are classified into two categories: sweet almonds and bitter almonds. Sweet almonds are the oval nuts with a crunchy texture and buttery flavour still in their shell or shelled whole, sliced, slivered or blanched without their skin. Bitter almonds are used to make almond oil.

Walnuts

There are actually 15 species of walnuts native to Asia, Europe and the Americas. In the 4th century A.D., the Romans introduced the walnut to many European countries where it has been grown since.

The English walnut originated in India and the regions surrounding the Caspian Sea. They played an important role in the diets and lifestyles of both the Native Americans and the early colonial settlers. Today, the leading commercial producers of walnuts are the United States (specifically California), as well as Turkey, China, Iran, France and Romania.

These tasty, nutritious nuts come from a beautiful tree that produces nuts for about 40 years and has a life span of about 60 to 80 years.

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts grow in clusters on the hazel tree in mild zones around the world. The outer husk opens as the nut ripens and inside is a hard, smooth-shelled nut. Hazelnuts are sold in the shell and out of the shell, roasted and natural, and are used in all different cuisines. They are especially popular in European pastry.

Its origin is Asia, and according to archaeologists who found fossils of the hazelnut, the nut dates back to prehistoric times, but it also made its way into northern European countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Germany. Today, the principal hazelnut producing countries are Turkey, Spain and Italy.

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds come from the large bright yellow flower that is actually 1,000 to 2,000 individual flowers joined together at the stem. Each sunflower head can grow to about 12 inches in diameter and can produce up to 2,000 seeds. The name sunflower comes from the Greek words helios "sun" and anthos "flower" and was given that name because the flowering heads are heliotropic, moving wherever the sun is.

The sunflower is North America's only native plant to become a major world crop. The use of the seeds goes back to 3000 BC, according to archaeological findings, which showed that the Native Americans used it as food, for curing meats, for snake bites, and as dye for body painting. Since the seeds could be dried, they were used throughout the winter as a staple food. The sunflower was taken to Europe around 1510 as a decorative plant and then in the 18th century was used as a source of vegetable oil. Today, the world's leading producer is Russia and the U.S.



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