The History of Nuts: As Explained by Ezra Cohen, McGill-Educated Nut Expert
When it comes to the history of nuts, Ezra Cohen, McGill University graduate and founder of Ezra Cohen Montreal, considers himself to be a bit nutty on the topic. Nuts, after all, are at the very heart of our nut butters, and they’ve been a huge part of the human diet for centuries. In fact, archaeologists have discovered that we’ve been eating nuts—and lots of them—for at least 780,000 years.
Despite the fact that most of us regularly consume nuts, however, their origin story is not always very well known. That’s why we’ve put together this quick and handy explainer on the history of this unstoppable superfood.
Where do nuts come from?
There are a lot of types of nuts. As such, there is no singular place that all nuts can be traced back to.
The walnut, for example, is thought to originate in the Middle East, where its earliest remains can be traced back to 50,000 B.C. The pecan, on the other hand, is a nut that is only found in North America, and scientists were able to find evidence of the nut’s existence in Texas dated back to 6100 B.C. Then there’s the hazelnut, listed among the five sacred nourishments of God in a Chinese manuscript from 2838 B.C.
So how have nuts existed in so many places and during so many times throughout history? Nuts are derived from other natural wonders namely fruits, trees, and plants. And since these vary from location to location throughout the world, the nuts produced and found in these locations also vary. The way they were discovered and used has also varied. One thing is clear, however: humans knew they were on to something special when they discovered nuts, and their continued ubiquity today is really no surprise.
How many types of nuts are there?
There are 53 different types of edible nuts, but not all of them rank quite as high in popularity as the 11 that make up the core of our nut consumption:
- Brazil Nuts
- Pine Nuts
- Macadamia Nuts
Stretch the list a bit further and you’ll find some other familiar names, including hickory nuts, gingko nuts, and yes, even coconuts.
The list can be further expanded if you note not just the types of nuts themselves that have enjoyed popularity among humans for centuries, but their uses. Nut oils, nut butters, and other nut products are just as important in their own right in the human diet, and represent an obsession with this wholesome category of food that clearly has no sign of dying down any time soon.
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