Tropical nuts are high on most people's favourite snack lists. But seeds? Grasses? And drupes - what on earth are they?
Macadamia nut trees, indigenous to the rainforests of Tropical North Queensland, have been grown commercially in Australia and overseas for about sixty years, following the development of special equipment to hull their exceptionally hard shells. Highly nutritious, the nuts also grow readily in domestic gardens in warm parts of the country.
Seeds are central to many spices, such as cumin, corriander and nutmeg while the bark of cinnamon trees becomes the aromatic cinnamon powder that is such a brilliant ingredient in sweet or savoury dishes.
Cereals such as oatmeal and wheat products are processed from seeds from these valuable crops, grown in areas of Australia which experiences cool winters and moderate rainfall.
Grasses? Sugar cane is an obvious one, along with some cereals and stems such as lemon grass and pandan. I suppose that you know the answer to the 'drupes' query - along with 'stone' fruit such as mangoes (and peaches, plums and nectarines in cold winter climates), it's coconuts!
Images, below, are links to information pages about them. Those with a red asterisk * are live, the others are 'work in progress'.
Containing a plethora of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, tropical nuts, as well as those grown in colder climates, are exceptionally good for your heart's health and are valuable in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight...and increasing longevity!
Here is an information site representing the Australian tree nut industry that may interest you. It has links to in-depth research articles if you are looking for details about nut growing and nut nutrition.
Many seeds, such as cumin and cardamom, are dried and used as spices or added to recipes for extra taste and nutrition. Pumpkin seeds, which are very popular and packed with health benefits, are not used this way but are great in breads or nut bars - or toasted and eaten just as they are. As I crunch my way through a handful I can't help feeling happy that I am absorbing nutrients, such as magnesium, protein and anti-oxidants as I do so!
Well, we're not ruminants and we don't have powerful teeth and jaws so eating grasses doesn't seem natural, does it. However sucrose, which is extracted from sugar cane, is one product that we would find difficult to eliminate from our diets. Often sold as freshly squeezed juice at produce markets in the tropics, its food value decreases with every step on the processing route.
The leaves from lemon grass make a lovely, fragrant tea while the asian pandan leaves add a flavour all their own - and rather difficult to describe.
Bay leaves are an old favourite used in curries and other savoury dishes.