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Nuts & Bolts: The Skinny on Your Favorite Cocktail Treats

PECANS The All-American Nut

 (Image credit: Markus Brunner, Germany)

With more than 80% of the world's output produced in the United States, pecans have been an American favorite since the days of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (both of whom grew them in their gardens). The nuts even helped fight communism during the Space Race! Apollo astronauts regularly munched on pecans during their missions.

CASHEWS Because You're Worth It

Snack : Raw Cashews

(Image credit: Flickr user Alisa Cooper)

Cashews are one of the only nuts never sold in their shells. That's because cashew shells contain a toxic liquid that causes nasty skin rashes. In fact, the oil is so caustic that, in the West Indies, it's used to give extreme facial peels. Women spread it on their mugs, and in a few days, the skin completely blisters off, revealing a smooth, clear complexion underneath.

ALMONDS The Lustiest Nut of All

Almond Trees

(Image credit: Flickr user Michael Porter)

For thousands of years, almonds have been associated with the birds and the bees. Pagans used them as fertility charms, and ancient Romans gave them as wedding presents. Even today, they're involved in a mass reproductive ritual right here in the United States. Every February, close to one million beehives are trucked to California so that the bees can pollinate almond trees. It's the largest managed pollination event in the world.

BRAZIL NUTS Why People are Falling for Them


Mixed Nuts

(Image credit: Flickr user Eric Kilby)

Collecting Brazil nuts is a dangerous job. The trees grow up to 200 feet in height, and the nuts are encased in fruit pods that can weigh up to five pounds. In fact, falling fruit has brought many nut gatherers to an untimely end.

MACADAMIAS A Tough Nut to Crack

183_9671 nuts Macadamia integrifolia Proteaceae

(Image credit: Flickr user Kate's Photo Diary)

Cracking a Macadamia nut takes about 300 pounds per square inch of pressure, which is roughly equivalent to six elephants standing on top of you. Other than humans, Hyacinth Macaws are the only animals that crack them for food.

FILBERTS & HAZELNUTS Go Ahead and Confuse 'Em!

One is good, two is better.

(Image credit: Flickr user Gilles Gonthier)

Even though filberts and hazelnuts look identical and both grow on a species of the Hazel shrub, they are technically different nuts. (Filberts have harder shells.) Nonetheless, in 1994, the Nut Growers Society of America voted to refer to both of them as hazelnuts. Why? Because ordering a "grande Filbert latte" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

PISTACHIOS The Nut with an Open Policy

"Love Nuts"

(Image credit: Flickr user dnmarcelino)

These easy-to-eat nuts are so beloved that they even have a behavioral theory named after them -The Pistachio Principle. The idea is that if you have to shell your own pistachios, you'll feel full faster than if you were eating them unshelled. The principle, while based on pistachios, applies to anything that requires work to eat.

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The article above, written by Stacy Conradt, appeared in the Scatterbrained section of the November - December 2009 issue of mental_floss magazine. It is reprinted here with permission. Don't forget to feed your brain by subscribing to the magazine and visiting mental_floss' extremely entertaining website and blog today!


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The almond tree picture is an English Walnut Orchard. Note the root stock, white trunk and branch pattern. Also, locals in Northern CA call almonds "amonds" with the "a" pronounced like "apple." This is in homage to the way they used to be harvested. Big rubber mallets were wielded by workers, smacking the trunks and knocking the "L" out of the tree to get them down!
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"The principle, while based on pistachios, applies to anything that requires work to eat."

That's why I like ordering edemame as an appetizer. Some people just pull the beans out with their teeth out of the pod, but I deshell them and lick the salt off the pod after.
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