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Feature Article From Harvest to Health
How to select, store, prepare and preserve a variety of farm-fresh produce





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 though nuts are "nutrient dense", which means they they supply many nutrients along with calories, they are not a low calorie food.

Selecting Nuts:


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. If left in plastic bags, cracked nuts are susceptible to mold growth. Return or discard any nuts showing mold growth.

Using and Storing Nuts:


Fresh Facts:

  • Nuts in the shell cost less than shelled nuts. Whether to buy unshelled or shelled nuts depends on how much time you have and the amount you need.
  • You will need a heavy-duty hammer or nut cracker 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;
  • 3/4 to 1 cup black walnuts;
  • 2 cups chopped pecans;
  • 1 1/4 cups hickory nuts.

Storage Facts:

  • We harvest Missouri black walnuts, pecans, and hickories 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 70F 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.
  • 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.




Quick and Fresh Ideas

  • Add nuts to homemade trail mix to give tired hikers a much needed energy boost.
  • For the flavor of fall, sprinkle baked squash, sweet potatoes, or apples with chopped nuts.
  • Nuts add texture and taste appeal to fruit, vegetable, and main dish salads:
    For a quick and cool main dish, toss chunks of cooked turkey, grapes, and pasta shells with yogurt--top with chopped nuts.
  • To make the difference between good and extra special--sprinkle hot cereal with chopped nuts or add them to pancake, waffle, cookie, cake, quick bread, and muffin batters.
  • Try using one-half whole wheat flour when baking--the flavor of whole grains especially complements nuts.
  • Brown baggers delight: Stuff whole grain pocket bread with a mixture of chopped nuts, apple, banana, and pineapple chunks--sprinkle with raisins.

To Roast Nuts

  • Roasted nuts have a fuller flavor compared to raw dried nuts; however, they have a shorter shelf life--so plan to use them within two to three weeks.
  • Spread shelled nuts in a shallow pan and bake in a 350F oven for 5 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until nutmeats turn golden brown.
  • For richer flavor and more even browning, toss each cup of nutmeats with one teaspoon of vegetable oil before roasting.
  • You can also roast nutmeats on top of the range in a heavy skillet--heat for 10 to 15 minutes until lightly browned, stirring frequently.
  • Note: nuts continue to brown slightly after removing from heat.
  • Sprinkle hot nuts with salt or other flavorings, if desired, and spread on paper towels to cool and drain.
  • You can easily roast nuts in a microwave oven--check individual manufacturer's directions.

Whole Wheat Apple Nut Bread
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup raisins
1 egg
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup applesauce--your own homemade will be delicious!
1/2 cup chopped pecans, black walnuts or hickories
1 tablespoon wheat germ

Sift together all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in whole wheat flour, brown sugar, and raisins. In a separate bowl, beat egg and oil and stir in yogurt, applesauce, and nuts. Gently stir applesauce mixture into flour mixture until dry ingredients are moistened.

Pour batter into greased 1 1/2-quart or 2-quart casserole dish and sprinkle with wheat germ. Bake at 350F for one hour or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for ten minutes. Remove from pan and finish cooling on a rack. Makes: one loaf.



To order any of the "From Harvest to Health" publications or for more preservation information, please refer to the University of Missouri Extension, Human Environmental Sciences Publications - Food, Nutrition and Fitness section.



Last update: Thursday, June 18, 2009


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