Acorn These nuts come from oak trees, and they were once an important food for Native Americans.
Almond, sweet almond have a crunchy texture and a rich, delicate flavor that’s especially good in desserts, like candy, ice cream, tortes, and coffee cake. To intensify their flavor, toast them on a baking pan in a 325° degree oven, stirring occasionally, until they’re golden (about 15 minutes for whole almonds). You can buy almonds shelled or unshelled, blanched, sliced, slivered, ground, or chopped.
Black walnut These are hard to shell, but tastier than ordinary walnuts. Bakers use them to take their fudge and cookies up a notch.
Brazil nut, para nut, cream nut These nuts come from the Amazonian rainforest, and they’re rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acid, and calcium. They’re prone to rancidity, so store them in the refrigerator or freezer if you plan to keep them for awhile.
candlenut, candle nut, kemiri, country walnut, buah keras Candlenuts must be cooked before eating, since they’re highly toxic when raw. Ground candlenuts are often used to thicken Malaysian and Indonesian curries. They’re so oily that natives string them together and use them as candles.
Cashew These rich, sweet nuts have a toxic shell, so they’re almost always sold shelled. Toast them briefly in the oven to boost their flavor.
Chestnut These sweet, starchy, low-fat nuts are quite common in southern Europe, where people eat them hot from the roaster, or add them to soups, stuffing, and desserts. They appear fresh in the fall and winter, but you can find them dried, vacuum-packed, or canned throughout the year.
Chinese almond These aren’t really almonds at all, but apricot kernels. They taste a lot like bitter almonds, and have a rich, heavenly almond-extract fragrance. They’re mildly toxic if eaten raw, so they should always be roasted or blanched before using.
Gingko nut These nuts date back some 150 million years, and are believe to be a powerful aphrodisiac. Asian cooks like to use them in desserts and stir-fries.
Hazelnut Hazelnuts have a crunchy texture and an appealing flavor that goes especially well with chocolate.
Hickory nut These are delicious, but they aren’t grown commercially because the shells are so hard. Pecans are a very close relative.
Macadamia nut These rich and creamy nuts hail from Hawaii and Australia, where they’re eaten as snacks, or incorporated into cookies or other desserts.
Peanut, Groundnut These aren’t really nuts, but legumes that grow underground. They’re cheaper than most nuts, and are often eaten out of hand or incorporated into candies, stir-fries, or trail mixes.
Pecan This North American nut is like a walnut, only sweeter and milder. It’s used widely in the South to make pralines, pecan pie, ice cream, and nut breads. They’re high in fat, so it’s best to store shelled pecans in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent them from turning rancid.
Pine nut These expensive and delicate seeds are harvested from pine trees in different parts of the world. Italians like to grind them into pesto or sprinkle them on pasta dishes. There are two main varieties: the triangular Chinese pine nuts sold in Asian markets, and the slender Italian pine nuts, which are more expensive and subtly flavored.
Pistachio nut These green Middle Eastern nuts are encased in tan shells, which are sometimes dyed red. They’re crunchy and delicately sweet, so they’re great in everything from ice cream to pilafs.
Walnut Walnuts are rich and flavorful, and cooks like to use them in everything from fudge to salads. Markets usually carry English walnuts = royal walnuts = Persian walnuts. Less common are black walnuts, which are much more flavorful but harder to shell. To roast, put shelled walnuts on a baking pan and in bake them in a 325° oven, stirring occasionally, until they’re slightly golden, about ten minutes.
Water caltrop This black nut bears an unmistakable resemblance to a bull’s head. Each one is about two inches across, and has a very hard shell.