There are few foods more delicious (or good for you) than a sweet, fresh nut and autumn/winter is harvest time. Nuts are powerhouses of protein, heart-friendly monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, minerals and fibre but much more than just being a snack or tasty baking ingredient, they can also provide protein in a vegetarian meal. For inspiration, see this zucchini and almond soup, cashew nut, cucumber and pumpkin curry and vegetarian pistachio nut loaf.
Better for you eaten raw or dry-roasted, rather than in oil, nuts should be stored in sealed containers. They will keep in the pantry for about three months, in the fridge for about four months and in the freezer for about six. Whole nuts keep better than chopped, and nuts in their shells last the longest. Cashews and almonds are the least likely to spoil but walnuts can turn rancid very quickly and keep best unshelled (up to a year in the freezer) if you are not planning on using them soon. Walnuts are heavenly in that retro favourite, Waldorf salad, in breakfast cereals and in pasta dishes.
Try starting the day with a protein boost with this addictively good (and easily made) ABC nut butter to spread on your toast or a warming caramelised pear porridge with hazelnuts and almonds.
The calorie value doesn’t change much between nut varieties but almonds, cashews and then pistachios are lowest. Still worried about their calorie content? See what Dr Libby has to say about good oils and fats. For more of her wisdom on the be benefits of including nuts in your diet, along with some great ways to eat them, see cashews and that winning combo, dates and almonds.
Because fresh is always best and a rancid nut can ruin any meal, try to source locally grown nuts if you can. New Zealand walnuts, hazelnuts, macadamias and pine nuts are now available and they are all great quality.
For the creamiest walnuts and sweetest plumpest Ennis hazelnuts (and no, we are not paid to say this) look for the Uncle Joe’s brand that is available online, in some supermarkets and also in greengrocers and specialty stores. The Blenheim-grown nuts win awards and are also pressed into oils, spreads and nut meal. Visit www.unclejoes.co.nz
Look out, too, for fresh walnuts from these local labels: Kerakel for certified organic nuts (there’s limited availability), Wild for walnuts from heritage trees and KerNelz. The nuts are grown throughout the country and sold through specialty food stores and greengrocers. Visit www.crackernut.co.nz
Move over Australia… Coromandel’s Cathedral Cove and Nuts About NZ in Kaipara both sell a delicious range of macadamias - plain, chocolate-coated and in many other variations and products. The oil has a very high smoke point. Macadamias are high in vitamins A, B and E and in monounsaturated fats, of course. Visit www.cathedralcovemacadamias.co.nz and www.nutsaboutnz.co.nz
In New Zealand most of the pine nuts we buy come from China. Longer, whiter and crisper are the European stone pine nuts grown by Pinoli in Marlborough. These are simply the best. Others think so too. Supplies ran out last year. Pine nuts are harvested late winter/early spring. Pinoli pine nuts are available online and through specialty food stores. Visit www.pinoli.co.nz