How to recognize quality nuts?

How to recognize quality nuts?

Thanks to its scientifically proven beneficial effects on health, nuts have gained a prominent place not only on the shelves of supermarkets, but also in several specialized stores (from shops entirely dedicated to organic products to pharmacies), cinema, online shops in addition to the traditional festival stalls.

Besides the different types of nuts, the offer involves different formats and terms of purchase and consumption patterns: in shell or shelled, unpackaged or packaged, natural or roasted and salted, caramelized, etc.

Sometimes it happens that apparently perfect nuts are bought that is later found out to be of poor quality and also have an unpleasant taste.

So how is it possible to tell if you are buying a good quality product or not?

There are some general rules to be followed in order to avoid risks:

  • Preferring packaged products: packaged products usually undergo stronger selection criteria. Companies often formalize agreements with suppliers in order to obtain raw materials with dimensions, pre-established morphological and organoleptic characteristics. Furthermore, before being packages, the raw material is scrupulously analysed from a hygienic point of view;
  • Unpackaged product: in case you prefer buying product in bulk, make sure that there are no signs of a possible pest or mould infestation;
  • Preferring organic products;
  • When buying nuts, keep in mind seasonality. Despite nuts being available all year long and being storable for a long time, they are also seasonal and as time passes they get worse from an organoleptic point of view;
  • In shelled products where possible always choose those with the "skin": the outer skin of shelled nuts partially protects them from rancidity and adds a proportion of fibre, vitamins and minerals to the product. If you choose to buy peeled products once you open the bag, consume them faster.

On the other hand, there are some specific tricks for each variety of raw material that allow to understand if a product is of good quality or not:

  • Almonds: be careful with bulk products, given their high content of unsaturated fats before purchase, it is always better to taste them and, when this is not possible, smell them to make sure they are not rancid. Another aspect to take into account is the presence of bitter almonds: finding some bitter almonds in a bag of sweet almonds may be normal, but when the percentage of bitter almonds is very high it means that the product is of poor quality.
  • Brazil nuts: Since they are large, it is possible to find packages with lots of broken nuts. Broken Brazil nuts go rancid faster compared to whole nuts, so when buying a package check that most of the fruit is intact.
  • Cashews: light colour is a prerogative of quality cashews. A further important aspect to be taken into account is that the surface is uniform and free from stains.
  • Hazelnuts: in shelled hazelnuts the colour of the inside of the seed must be light, uniform and free from stains or signs of rotting.
  • Peanuts: the seed must not "dance" inside the pod, if shaking makes a noise it means that the product has been poorly stored or it is an old crop.
  • Pecans: for the shelled product the kernel of the walnut must be uniform in colour tending to amber and free from stains, as the presence of stains can be a symptom of fungal or mould infection. The fruit must not be dried and the surface must not be wrinkled.
  • Pine nuts: most of the pine nuts on the market come from two main countries: China and Italy. The Chinese pine nuts are more stocky, yellowish in colour and with a greasy surface and a rather low price. Italian pine nuts, on the other hand, are more tapered, lighter in colour, with a matt surface and a rather high price. Italian pine nuts are of a much higher quality than the Chinese ones, have a much more intense taste, a much lower yield, and this, in addition to the difficulty of processing, justifies the high price.
  • Pistachios: when the pistachio is ripe the seed swells and breaks the shell naturally. However, there are pistachios on the market that are harvested before they ripen and the shell is opened mechanically. To understand if the pistachio nut was opened naturally and the pistachio is therefore mature, it is possible to press the shell as if trying to close it again: if the two halves of the shell cannot close again, this means that it opened naturally, but if they close again, this means that it is opened mechanically.
  • Walnuts: beware of walnuts with an excessively light shell: although they may look prettier in reality they might have undergone a bleaching process carried out with chemical products (e.g. sodium hypochlorite). Shelled walnuts, rich in unsaturated fatty acids, quickly turn rancid, so it is important to keep them tightly closed, cool and possibly in the dark to slow down the process. In addition, the clearer the shelled walnuts, the higher the quality of the product.

Clearly these are very general indications. The quality of the nuts is very much influenced by the season, the climate and the year of harvest and is subject to a high variability from year to year. For this reason there are years when the harvest is abundant and of high quality and years when the harvest may be poorer and of average or lower quality.


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