You Probably Don't Really Know What A Nut Is

There's a great scene in the film Best In Show when the character Harlan Pepper lists the names of different nuts. "Peanut. Hazelnut. Cashew nut. Macadamia nut," he says. "Pine nut, which is a nut, but it's also the name of a town. Pistachio nut. Red pistachio nut. Natural, all natural white pistachio nut." It's a funny moment, but the nut premise is actually all wrong. For example, the peanut, which accounts for more than 60% of all "nut" consumption in the United States, is actually a legume. And a cashew? That's technically a drupe. So what is a nut, anyway?

According to the US Forest Service, true nuts are "dry, single-seeded fruits that have high oil content. They are usually enclosed in a leathery or solid outer layer. In botany terms, nuts are strictly a particular kind of dry fruit that has a single seed, a hard shell, and a protective husk." So, what you likely consider nuts might actually fall into many different categories including seeds, legumes, and drupes. Because peanuts are a pod of seeds that grows underground, they are legumes. A drupes, on the other hand, is a "fruit with a hard stony covering enclosing the seed (like a peach or olive) and comes from the word drupa meaning overripe olive." Walnuts, pistachios, pecans and almonds are all the seeds of drupe fruits. Hungry for more on your favorite snack? We've collected some great videos about nuts, how to make them, and why they've become the culprit of so many allergy attacks.

Which Foods Are Actually Nuts?

You'd think the word "nut" would mean...nut. But that's not always the case.

Key Facts In This Video

  1. According to botany, the basic definition of a true nut is a shelled pod containing a single, edible kernel. 00:24

  2. The cashew "nut" is actually a seed that grow atop the cashew apple. 01:00

  3. The peanut is not a nut—it is technically a legume. 01:34

Peanut Allergies Are Getting A Little Nuts

They've doubled in prevalence in the last 10 years in western countries.

Written by Curiosity Staff February 26, 2016

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