Are You Eating a Nut or a Seed?

Posted on : September 25th, 2018

Or could it be both? It turns out that nuts are seeds but not all seeds are nuts. And then there are foods we popularly call nuts that might technically be considered fruit! AND there are nut-like seeds found inside some fruits that are botanically called something else altogether: drupes! It’s all so confusing. I don’t know who decided to set such strange distinctions but let’s dive in!


Seeds are found inside fruits and are the propagative part of the plant that could fall to the ground or be planted to grow a new one. Seeds hold a plant embryo—a tiny undeveloped plant—inside a light, easily removed casing around them that splits open or falls away to allow the plant to grow. They don’t technically have a hard shell requiring a nutcracker. You can easily crack them open using your nails or teeth. Sunflower seeds are a great example of that. Pine nuts and Brazil nuts are examples of seeds that we call nuts for culinary purposes.


True nuts from a botanical point of view are a type of fruit! But not necessarily the kind of fleshy juicy fruit you pick off a tree and just bite into. The fruit becomes hard to protect the seeds inside. In fact, they become very hard to create a shell that does not open or easily separate from the seeds without difficulty. We humans use mechanical devices like nutcrackers to eat them. But somehow, with weather and time, new baby plants are capable of emerging from these seeds. Examples of true nuts are acorns, chestnuts, beech and hazel nuts.


And now we get to my favorite culinary nuts. Drupes are fruits like peaches or cherries that have a hard stone-like interior seed we often call a “pit.” In some cases those seeds cannot be eaten. But in the case of almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans and cashews, they most definitely can! Are they nuts? No–not in the botanical sense. But you may be excused if you, like me, tend to disagree!


Finally, we get to the oddity of the culinary nut category—legumes. Legumes are peas or beans, basically. They’re plants that create a sometimes edible pod that contains seeds inside. And the seeds are usually edible. We don’t typically call them nuts except for peanuts. But peanuts are odder still because they grow underground! There are other groundnuts found around the world, notably in Africa and Brazil, but peanuts have pretty much taken over the market everywhere else.

So, to sum things up, nuts are SEEDS of a wide variety of plants and present in a wide variety of forms. One thing they all have in common is that they are the source of energy and nutrition for a new developing plant. That means they’re a great source of food for us as well. And delicious besides!

Maisie Jane’s California Sunshine Products, Inc. was founded on strong beliefs and passion for offering unique, flavorful, top-quality, nut products. We strongly believe in earth-friendly practices that start on our family owned and operated orchards. We use Organic farming practices and continue in the process by using all-natural ingredients with no preservatives or GMOs. We believe in honest, friendly and helpful customer relations at all levels. We take pride in every task, every day, with every person.