We Sell the Best
I grew up on a farm; our main crop was walnuts, along with almonds, and peaches. I helped my father build a walnut huller and dryer. We commercially hulled and dried walnuts for many of the growers in our county. We processed abut 1500 tons of nuts a year and after 15 years of operating the huller and dryer I learned a great deal about nuts. Because of my knowledge of walnuts I started buying and selling nuts and candy. Many of the nuts I buy directly from the grower. More than once I refused a shipment of nuts because they did not meet my standards.
Best Tasting Nuts
The best tasting almond is the Nonpariel. This almond has been around for many years. The Nonpariel is considered the best plain eating almond with a light brown color skin with smooth texture and mild taste. It is a long, slender nut.
When you buy almonds in a retail store you get a mix of different varieties. They are rarely sized for uniformity or inspected for quality and contain broken, scratched and smaller nuts. This reduces the wholesale costs on the nuts and increases profits for the store.
I have found a local Pecan farming operation and I have sampled and tasted his Pecans. 2014 will be the third year I have purchased his Pecans. This farmer does an excellent job shelling and cleaning his Pecans. Most Pecans are sold by size. Such as halves, extra large pieces, medium pieces and so forth. The extra sorting by size costs more money. I have asked this grower to shell the Pecans and not sort them by size. This saves on the cost plus you as a consumer will have halves and pieces in the same bag.
The Pistachios we have are not treated with water and chlorine. Some processors spray the pistachios with this water to cover up the brown spots on the shells of the Pistachios. Now you have a nut sprayed with chlorine, which may change the taste and depending on the amount of chlorine cause your mouth to be sore. All nuts we sell are this years crop.
Different varieties of walnuts have different flavors. I have found two varieties that have exceptional flavor and very little if any natural acid. One walnut has the flavor the the old Mayette Walnut. The Mayette was the best tasting walnut ever produced. It is no longer planted because it produces one ton to the acre where the other varieties produce 3 to 4 tons per acre. The other variety of walnut has a sweet flavor similar to a pecan. I have combined these two nuts to achieve a great tasting product.
Why Walnuts Can be Bitter and Cause Canker Sores
Walnuts are hulled to remove the green, outside hull then washed and dried. After the drying process the walnuts are ready for shelling and eating. NO OTHER processing is necessary. Farmers then sell their walnuts to a company such as Diamond Walnut Growers. The processor will bleach all the walnuts that are to be sold in the shell. To bleach them they are placed in a liquid solution of chlorine or sulfur, the liquid causes the shells to pop open. The walnuts are bleached so that the shells will look nice and cover up brown or purple stains. When the shell pops open the walnut meat absorbs the chlorine solution resulting in a bitter taste and causes canker sores in your mouth. People are not allergic to walnuts, they are reacting to the bleach in the walnut. Some walnuts have a high natural acid content which will also cause canker sores.
2007 an outbreak of salmonella was caused by inadequate handling of almonds by a small producer. The California Almond Board came up with a pasteurization mandate, requiring all almonds grown in
California and sold in the United States be pasteurized.
Most almond producers pasteurize their
almonds with bromide, ethyl bromide being the most
common. These chemicals are deadly and remain in the almond and also destroy some of the
nutritional value. The mandate states a farmer may sell an individual up to 100
pounds of non pasteurized almonds per person per day. But the exchange
of nuts must take place on the farmer's property.
I use a company that pasteurizes almonds
using a safe organic process, H2O steam. They use a process
of vacuum and steam to comply with the pasteurization mandate. I am
licensed to buy non pasteurized nuts directly from the farmer.
Shelled versus Inshell Walnuts
Walnuts are packaged for two distinct markets - inshell (whole in the shell) and shelled. The most popular English walnuts used for shelling are the Chandlars, Tulares, and Howards. They get about a 50% shell out. This means in 10 pounds of walnuts there will be 5 pounds of meat and 5 pounds of shell. Hartley and Vina walnuts have a shell out ratio of 30% meaning 30% are nut meats and 70% are shells. If you buy walnuts in the shell there is a good chance up to 70% of what you buy will be shell. It is much cheaper to buy walnuts already shelled.
When buying shelled walnuts always buy light colored halves and pieces. Never buy the chopped nuts, which could be rejects from the bleaching process, and can be sunburned due to husk fly damage. It is easy to camoflage a poorer quality nut by chopping them.
Exposure to Heat
Walnuts have a green, wet hull that protects it during the growing season. Husk Flies come along and sting the green hull and causes it to die where stung. This leaves the walnut without protection (like sunscreen) and the walnut meat is burned in the area that is damaged. Husk fly damaged walnuts have a purple look on the outside and the meat may be shriveled from the heat of the sun. The heat is intense in the Sacramento Valley in Northern California; I have personally seen 127 degrees. If the walnut trees have not been properly watered the heat and sun will damage the green hull and cause the walnut meat to be shriveled and not edible. After being hulled the shell will be black. The processors will bleach the walnuts in an attempt to cover these defects.
Walnuts exposed to high heat will become rancid. When drying the walnuts the heat should never exceed 108 degrees. If the walnut meat is exposed to temperatures higher than 108, it will cause the oil in the walnuts to break down and become rancid. Often walnuts are not sold for months, stored in hot warehouses or distribution centers and sometimes sit for long periods of time on store shelves. Proper industry grade cold storage is critical to maintain nut quality, but large chain stores do not have the facilities and may not know or care about proper nut storage.
When purchasing pistachios make certain there are very, very few that are shells and no meat. Another thing to look for is make certain there are very few that are not split open. If they are not split open it is difficult to open them. A secret that I have learned is, if the pistachios are too salty for you, rub the shelled pistachios between two fingers and this will rub off the membrane. The membrane is where most of the salt is.
I feel fortunate to have found a local pecan grower. They have 80 acres of pecans, and own their own equipment to hull, dry and shell the pecans. When buying shelled pecans a person needs to look for the ones with the lightest color. The best are light brown. Never buy a pecan if it is dark brown or dark red. A lot of the pecans get redder as they get older. I have noticed many of the red pecans are shriveled, as if they did not mature. This could be weather related or maybe they were harvested improperly. Other reasons for the red pecan is lack of water and too hot during the growing season.
The best quality pecans are plump, light in color, and this year’s crop. We are thrilled to be able to buy this type of pecan. These pecans have not been subjected to any fumigation.
Roasted Salted Shelled Cashews
Back in the seventies when I was first selling nuts I met Mike who has a nut roasting business in the Bay Area. Mike and I both have the same philosophy about nuts, that is: Buy the best.
The roasted salted shelled cashews are whole and imported from Vietnam. In the past few years these cashews have proven to be the best. Consistently these cashews look good, are large and have a great flavor. Mike buys the raw nuts and when I place my order he then will roast them. He uses Canola oil for the roasting process. I place two orders each year. One for the early deliveries and a second for the later ones. This ensures the cashews are, fresh and not rancid. Freezing the nuts will keep them fresh longer.
The mixed nuts are made up of almonds, pecans, cashews, Brazil nuts and filberts. There are no peanuts. Most processors will put in a higher percentage of the nut that is the cheapest for that year and use less of the most expensive ones. This keeps their cost down and profits up. Mike uses the same mixture every year, no matter what the nuts cost. Peanuts are the cheapest of all the nuts and some processors use a high percentage of peanuts in their mixed nuts. Another trick is to use a cheaper variety of the almonds with less flavor in the mixed nuts. The Nonpariel almond has the best taste and is the most expensive of all almonds. Mike exclusively uses the Nonpariel almond, guaranteeing you the best flavor. Mike believes in quality and this is why I have purchased nuts from him for many years.
Proper storage of nuts
The bags we package our nuts in are special barrier bags. They form a barrier that prevents the air from being absorbed into the bag. When we package the nuts we remove as much of the excess air as possible. The result is the nuts will stay fresher longer because of less oxygen exposure. These bags cost us about 50 cents each, but we feel the extra cost is worth it to ensure the nuts stay fresher.
All of our nuts store well in the freezer. Our nuts have less than 2% moisture which means they can be stored in a freezer without hurting them. We suggest you place a few nuts in the refrigerator for your daily use. They will stay good there up to three months. Store the rest in the freezer until needed.
Chopped or sliced nuts
If a recipe calls for chopped, sliced or slivered nuts only chop as many as you need. The shelf life of a chopped or slivered nut is greatly reduced. Once the nut is cut or chopped this exposes the meat to more oxygen and they will go rancid quickly. That is why you should never buy a chopped, slivered, or cut up nut from a store. They will be rancid.
More information about freshness and shelling
All of the shelled walnuts sold in the stores have a date marked on the bag. Like: Best used by, then a date. From what I have been able to determine this date is placed on the bag at the time of packaging, Not shelling or when the nut was harvested. The date normally is two years from date of packaging. When people look at this date they assume this is the harvest date and it indicates the nuts are fresher then they really are. Many nuts are stored a few months or maybe years before they are shelled and then it might be sometime before they are packaged.
I have talked to two different walnut sheller's that package for some large box stores and they told me all the nuts purchased by these stores are sprayed with a common preservative to make them look fresher. The sad part is these stores are buying nuts from the previous year that are already rancid.
I personally know of walnuts that were shelled and packaged in bags with the stores brand on them. Then for some reason the sale did not go through and the nuts sat there for some time. They were eventually sold, repackaged in a bag with the new store's name and given a new "Best used by _____ date." I have heard some people say "I will buy the nuts in October so I know they are fresh because that is when they are harvested. Most if not all nuts in the store in October are last years nuts, not the fresh crop from this year. Hopefully by reading through these pages you can gain an appreciation for good food and how to buy good walnuts. I encourage everyone to buy directly from the farmer if you can. If not we can help you get the best there is.