Nut Facts and Tips
For best quality, select clean, unshelled nuts free from splits, cracks and holes. Nuts in the shell should be heavy for their size, indicating a fresh, meaty kernel. Nutmeats that rattle in their shell are usually stale.
Crisp, plump and meaty nutmeats indicate high quality; limp, rubbery or shriveled nutmeats indicate poor quality. Unless you plan to use nutmeats as a garnish, they do not need to be uniform in size.
Suppliers often sell cracked nuts in the shell in plastic bags. Remove cracked nuts from plastic bags immediately and spread them out on trays in an airy location until you can shell and store them properly.
Nuts provide protein, fiber and some vitamins and minerals in varying amounts. The fat in nuts is mostly unsaturated and nuts contain no cholesterol. Unless salted, nuts are low in sodium. Even tough nuts are “nutrient dense”, which means they supply many nutrients along with calories, they are not a low calorie food.
Using and Storing Nuts
- We harvest pecans in the fall. For year-round use, store nuts as soon as they are thoroughly dry. Rich in oil, nuts will quickly become rancid or stale if not stored properly.
- Although unshelled nuts take up more room, they have a much longer shelf life than shelled nuts.
- Properly dried unshelled nuts will keep for several weeks at room temperature.
- Store unshelled nuts in airtight containers in a cool, dry, dark location, below 70 degrees F to ensure good quality for about four months.
- Whole, shelled nutmeats remain fresh longer than nuts in pieces—so chop nuts just before you plan to use them.
- Unsalted nuts keep longer than salted nutmeats.
- You will need a heavy-duty hammer or nutcracker and plenty of extra time to shell black walnuts and hickories. Pecans are fairly easy to shell.
- In Missouri, most suppliers sell black walnuts shelled, pecans either cracked in the shell or as shelled nutmeats, and hickories either unshelled or as shelled nutmeats.
- Most Missouri nut growers do not recommend soaking nuts before cracking because it toughens nutmeats, adds moisture and encourages mold growth.
- Nutty Math—One pound of unshelled nuts yields: 2 1/4 cups pecan halves; ¾-1 cup black walnuts; 2 cups chopped pecans; 1 ¼ cups hickory nuts.
- For long-term storage, package unshelled or shelled nuts in moisture/vapor proof containers and store in the refrigerator or freezer—the lower the storage temperature, the longer the shelf life.
Information provided in cooperation with University of Missouri, University Extension and Missouri Department of Agriculture.