Since my beloved started transforming his diet, his health, his mind, his life, as one does, if a mid-life crisis hasn't killed you, or as one can when love so keeps pushing you in the direction to maximise your energy levels, he's been asking a lot of questions regards nutrition. What's this? What's that? How's it made? Where does it come from? What is it good for?
Most recently nuts, seeds and beans have been on the menu of his inquiring mind. He asked me to figure out what is what and so here goes.
Matrushka Doll Fleshy Bodies, Edible Seed Cases, or Protective Pips
I don't know why Peter Piper would pick a pluck of pickled pepper, but I recommend you pluck a plum † and unpack the matrushka doll of the fruit to get to its smallest inner secret. If not a plum, try a peach or an apricot, perhaps peel off it's skin, and then part its flesh to get to its stone which contains its seed, but do NOT eat these seeds carelessly, even if apricot kernels are sold as potentially preventative against cancer, its seeds are hazzardous to health when eaten in excess (more than 6 a day is risky); while the almond pit certainly contains enough deadly cyanide to determine its inedibility.
Apples also have nuts that aren't nuts
Sometimes a seedcase is less of a stone or pit but the hard shell of an edible seed. Think of the outer soft hull then as the fruit (or drupe): examples of which would be the walnut, peacan and almond. Let's not forget the two-for-the-price-of-one in the cashew with a yellow (psuedo) fruit called a cashewapple (good to eat), from which hangs the crescent shaped drupe which contains a (double) shelled cashewseed, that requires quite some divesting from its shells to get rid of its irritant properties, giving an allergic reaction much like poison ivy - which can be fatal in the oral cavity/throat.
Sometimes a seedcase IS a seedcase, but edible: think of mangetout and sugar snaps (peapods) or green beans (haricot verts). Sometimes a seed is but provisionally protected by a husk: think of the easy to shell pumpkin and sunflower seeds.
Let's go nuts
Sometimes a nut is just a nut, as for hazlenuts and chestnuts; but this is infrequent. I can actually only name off hand one more unsuspected candidate for a nut in the acorn (makes a tasty surrogate coffee). Please think of more if you can and pop them in the comments section.
Sometimes inedible nuts seem to pack for container shipping, having cases within cases: the hard cases are filled with seeds in hard shells we need to crack open before we can eat them: for example, the super hard capsule which falls to the ground, carrying the familiar seed(not nut)pods we need to crack to get to the (again not nut but) seeds we call Brazil nuts.
Another potential killer:
Finally, also not so nutty as they sound are pinenuts Nutritionally not to be sniffed at ): very hard to harvest, they are the seeds of the pine tree. Watch the short video with the charming, small commercial Nevada harvester to realise why they are pricey and to be savoured with much appreciation for the treat.
Eventhough they are not nuts so you’ld think there would be nothing to worry about in the allergy department, they can come with an entirely own – if rare - anaphylactic shock effect for some people.
Spilling the Beans on Beans
Another high protein food is the bean (legume) and it comes gift wrapped in a fruit (we tend to call a pod), which in themselves may be edible sometimes as for green or sliced beans, and young pea pods; otherwise they contain these edible seeds we call beans.
Technically, peanuts are also legumes, albeit they are truer to their other name of “ground nut”, since they are harvested by pulling them out of the ground.
For this hiding in the dark, we may like to avoid the peanut in our diet as a debased seed, refusing to grow and ripen and dry in the summer sunlight, and rather acting the tuber. Of course, nutritionally it has its value (Vitamin E, zinc, B6, iron) but intensified farming to meet popular demand for the PJ sandwich has also made this non-nut arguably very iffy: in the first place for the pesticides and artificial fertilisers used; and secondly for the way it is stored improperly and subject to a mold containing aflatoxin which would be a possible carcinogenic if not outrightly toxic (birds have died in great numbers, however, for this not too uncommon contamination).
Numbers are not for counting beans!
A man who, in any case, would have passed up on a peanutbutter sandwich is Pythagoras: in fact, he spat on all beans as detrimental to clarity of thinking and mathemantical finer sensitivities. It was a firm rule in his school that his students avoided all beans. The esoteric consideration regards this practice would be that the digestive (lower) system is over-taxed by beans and would detract energy from the head pole.
However, I don't see - would it have been available to him - how he could have turned down a cup of Java on the same grounds, since coffee beans are actually the seeds of a red "cherry". Then again, he seems to have been quite a stickler for sticking to the cosmically harmonious, so I presume a diet, too, would have to be consistently proportionate: in that as much as he avoided the clouding of the mind, he must have also been adverse to stimulating it.
Learn more about the man who hated beans here: What was up with Pythagoras?
† This advice is only for plum tree owners. Nostealingof plums is encouraged.
- For more nutritional facts on the Brazil nut click on: a miracle nut in your diet
- Photo of Cashew Apple By Abhishek Jacob - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12698315
- photo credits: top @sukhasanasister; mangetout and sunflower seed headsand coffee beans and jay bird holding a peanut in its beakfound on Pixabay in public domain.