Storage Of Nuts And Seeds

8. Storage Of Nuts And Seeds

If you buy the best and freshest nuts available, in season, you can store them until the next year’s harvest. Unshelled nuts may be held at room temperature for a few months, sometimes as long as six months, except in very warm weather.

Formerly, I stored my reserve supply of nuts in the freezer, where they remained stable and fresh-tasting. We never observed any loss of flavor or texture. Of course, nuts do not freeze, even in the freezer, because their water content is very low.

When a food is frozen, its water content expands, causing bursting of the cell walls, and spilling of the contents, thus destroying the cell. When the food is thawed, a loss of texture is observed. A loss of nutrients also occurs, due to oxidation. Decomposition speedily follows thawing if thawed food is not used immediately. There is also some deterioration which occurs while the food is frozen.

Nuts do not contain enough water to expand and burst the cell walls. Nuts which have not yet been harvested seem to suffer no damage from being stored at freezing temperatures and remain fertile after having been exposed to below freezing temperatures. The question is, does the situation change after harvesting, and can the freezing temperatures then have adverse effects?

Calvin Arnold, director of Agricultural Research in Monticello, Florida, says that freezer storage is the best way to maintain the quality of pecans, in or out of the shell. He says that if they are frozen soon after harvesting, they can last several years. He warns that you should not ever try to refreeze them after thawing. This would seem to indicate that changes do occur as a result of freezing.

In March 1977, I read a report in Consumers Digest which led me to change my practice of storing nuts. This report pointed out that nutrient loss is caused by very high and very low temperatures, and that freezing temperatures particularly destroy Vitamin E. Since Vitamin E is a significant factor in nuts and seeds, I decided to discontinue the storage of nuts in the freezer. Results: excellent!

As of this writing, November 1981, I have just finished last year’s supply of shelled pecans, which had been stored in moisture-proof pliofilm bags in my refrigerator, and started on my fresh supply. Amazingly, they both tasted about the same: fresh, tasty, crisp and flavorful. There was no sign of rancidity and no loss of flavor or texture from the year’s refrigerator storage at about 42 degrees.

We buy our seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin) as needed, usually five or ten pounds at a time, from Jaffe or the health food store, and store them in the refrigerator of course. We use more than sixty pounds of sunflower seeds in a year (two people), so we don’t attempt to buy the whole year’s supply at one time. We use sesame and pumpkin seeds in quite small quantities.

If you are still “sold” on storing your nuts in the freezer, you might compromise by storing a several months’ supply in the refrigerator and the balance in the freezer.

Chestnuts are quite perishable. They lose moisture and spoil. If fresh, they will keep in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to a week.

Fresh coconuts, in the shell, will keep at room temperature for a month or more. They will keep longer, in moisture-proof pliofilm bags in the refrigerator, depending on how fresh they are. After a coconut is opened, the coconut meat will stay fresh a few days in a jar, submerged in the liquid from the coconut, or submerged in water. For longer storage, fresh grated coconut can be submerged in the coconut liquid and frozen in containers.

Dried coconut may be stored in the refrigerator, in a moisture-proof bag, for a month or longer; in the freezer, almost indefinitely. It is never a good idea to store food in the freezer more than six months to a year.

Peanuts, shelled or unshelled, will keep in moisture-proof containers in the refrigerator for at least several months. Peanut butter is a different story, of course. If you use peanut butter, it is best to make it or get it fresh in very small quantities, as peanut butter, or any nut butter, is subject to rancidity. If necessary, nut butters may be stored in the refrigerator for about a week.

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