With high nutritive value and a deliciously sweet taste, dried fruit is fruit from which the majority of the original water content has been removed either naturally, through sun drying, or through the use of specialized dryers or dehydrators. Nuts are edible fruits as well, anatomically different from the rest because of their soft internal kernels enclosed within a hard shell. Both dried fruits and nuts possess high shelf life, and have been in use throughout centuries in every part of the world. Today, they form an integral part of our culture and cuisine, and have an irreplaceable importance in our daily lives. In the second segment of this listicle, there is more to learn about our favourite ones.
Walnuts are derived from the Persian and English walnut trees (Juglans regia) and its soft edible kernel resembles the human brain. In etymological terms, the word is derived from the Germanic wal and the Old English wealhhnutu, meaning “foreign nut”. The shells are thin with a faint sheen and crack neatly into half, revealing the twisted, curly shaped nut. Versatile in the kitchen, walnuts can be candied and pickled in addition to being eaten raw or in their roasted form. Walnuts also form an integral part of many dishes, particularly desserts like chocolate brownies and even breakfast mueslis. You can also find them in many a salad, as their slightly bitter taste balances out the overall sweetness of the rest of the dish. Walnuts are very rich in protein and also contain a small amount of Vitamin B. They are rich in antioxidants and are curative for many minor diseases such as eczema. In fact, the oil obtained from the kernel has been found of great help in skin diseases. The green unripe walnut is useful for expelling worms from the stomach. They are also good for treating constipation because of their proven laxative qualities. Walnuts also possess many other non-culinary qualities, some of them being in the areas of cleaning agents, inks and dyes, and even anti-cancer drugs. Although walnuts are highly rich in protein and are very good for the brain, they yield nearly seven hundred calories and seventy grams of fat in just a hundred grams.
Pistachios belong to the cashew family and are obtained from small pistachio trees (Pistacia vera) which originated from the countries of Central Asia and the eastern part of the Mediterranean coast. The word pistachio comes from the medieval Italian pistacchio, which has been derived from the classical Latin pistacium, which in turn has its origin in the ancient Greek pistákion and the Persian pistákē. The kernel of the pistachio nut is consumed, and the non-edible beige coloured shells also find many uses in non-culinary areas, such as fuel and composting purposes. Pistachios formed a common part of the diet of ancient human civilizations, with notable mentions in ancient texts dating back to centuries before the advent of the Christ. Slightly sweet in taste, pistachios are eaten raw, roasted, salted, and also as a part of desserts such as the Indian kulfi, cold salads, Italian biscottis, Turkish delights, and ice cream. Pistas, as they are commonly called in India, are very high in calories and thus should be avoided by obese and overweight people with diligence. According to dietary charts, a hundred grams of pistas yield more than six hundred calories.
Fenugreek seeds are obtained from the small herbaceous fenugreek plant (Trigonella foenum-graecum), and are usually called methi by most people in the Indian subcontinent. Originating from Egypt and other countries of Western Asia, fenugreek and its various parts are used as herbs, spices, and vegetables. The word has its origins in the Latin faenugraecum, literally meaning “Greek hay” and dates back to the ancient Roman era where the dried fenugreek plant was used as fodder. Hard lentils by biological classification, fenugreek seeds are a dark fawn in colour and possess an astringent aroma. Containing around five percent of bitter fixed oil, the seeds are usually broken to down to obtain the same. The oil is bitter in taste, smells like celery, and is used in small quantities in seasoning Indian dishes like sambhar and kadhi. Rajasthani people even make curry out of fenugreek. Fenugreek oil greatly improves the flavour and quality of pickles, and is mostly used in cooking with sour substances so as to balance out the taste. It is particularly beneficial to non-insulin dependent diabetics as it helps them to regulate their blood glucose levels by their significant hypoglycaemia-inducing properties. It is also used in buttermilk to treat dysentery.
Mustard seeds are derived from the mustard plant (Brassica juncea) and are generally advised to be consumed in moderate amounts. They are small in size, stretching no more than two millimetres in diameter, and are usually reddish-black in colour. Mentioned in many ancient religious texts, mustard holds an important historicity in Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and Buddhism. Generally called by their Urdu term sarson in most parts of northern India, mustard has its etymological origins in the Old French mostarde and the Latin mustum which means “new wine”. The leaves are consumed as vegetable, the skinned seeds are used for making pickles, and its oil is used as a cooking medium. The pungent taste and tear-producing properties of mustard seeds are due to nitrogen and sulphur containing compounds called isothiocyanates. Mustard seeds are used in treating rheumatism, arthritis, acidity, kidney and bladder ailments, bronchial inflammation, and are also recommended particularly for pregnant women. Nursing mothers are advised to take mustards due to its detoxifying properties. Mustard greens are rich in Vitamins A, B, and C, and contain fibre in bulk, which produces a mildly laxative effect.
Dried coconut is obtained from the coconut palm tree (Cocos nucifera) and is ideally found in coastal and tropical areas where the hot temperature and slightly arid soil contribute to its growth. The coconut has even been mentioned in old fiction, such as in “The One Thousand and One Nights” story by Sindbad the Sailor. Derived from the Spanish word coco which literally means “grinning face” and refers to the three-holed humanoid appearance of the fruit, coconuts have important uses all over the world. Primarily used in the southern states of India for its oil, coconut is a vital part of the local cuisine, and an inseparable ingredient of many delicacies. It is also used in the north as a part of many sweetmeats, with coconut milk a favourite summer beverage throughout the country, and fermented coconut being used to make toddy, an alcoholic beverage native to South Asia. Rich in Vitamins A, B, and C, this tropical wonder food is also a rich source of potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and sulphur. While the carbohydrate and protein content is moderate, the fat content is quite high, with a hundred grams of oil yielding nearly seven hundred calories.