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The British Nut is not Appreciated

November 29, 2011


Anyone for Nuts?

Chestnuts Roasting on an open fire ………….!  A song that springs to mind when thinking about Christmas but in actual fact the British nut is not always appreciated.

We gorge on foreign cashews, almonds, pecans. Even worse, we import peanuts by the lorry load (and they aren’t even a nut, but a legume). Yet these isles are home to many a nut: hazelnut, beechnut, horse chestnut, sweet chestnut, acorn, walnut. 

For instance, on food the aim is to have 60% of one’s requirements from within a 60mile radius. Citrus fruit undoubtedly has to come within the 40% imported but nuts, Coffee and Wine are all sadly in my 40% imported.


We were once great connoisseurs of the cultivated hazelnut, otherwise known as the cobnut or filbert. During Edwardian and Victorian times, no dinner was complete without a dish of cobnuts proffered around at pudding. In 1913, 7,000 acres of nut plantations existed. These days that number is negligible.


Ancient Britons were said to enjoy acorns. In times of famine, acorns were ground up as an additive to bread flour.

During the shortages of the Second World War, acorns were grilled and ground, as a substitute for coffee. “It was not in the least like coffee,” a soldier wrote, “but when mixed with chicory root and served with lots of hot milk it made a tolerable breakfast drink.”

Much folklore was attached to nuts. William Cobbett commented on the saying that “a great nut year is a great bastard year”. Apparently this had to do with the fun young folk had while out a-gathering nuts.

The fortune-telling capacities of sweet chestnuts

Prior to being roasted the nuts would be given the names of eligible chaps in the village. The first one to pop would be the one who would first pop the question.

 Recipe for Christmas Spiced Nuts

Making your own spiced nuts is very easy and they taste delicious! They also make lovely Christmas gifts. Pop a generous amount in a clear bag or glass jar and tie the top with some festive ribbon.


 1tbsp Cumin Seeds

2 tsp Coriander Seeds

¼ tsp Dried crushed Chillies

½ tsp Celery Salt

¼ tsp Ground Black Pepper

¼ tsp Caster Sugar

2 tsp Olive Oil

250g Natural Mixed Nuts

1tsp Sea Salt

  1. Crush the cumin, coriander seeds and chillies using a pestle and mortar. Next stir in the celery, salt, pepper and sugar.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan, add the seed mix and heat for 1 minute. Add the nuts and stir over a gentle heat for a couple of minutes until they are coated in the spices and are starting to turn golden.
  3. Sprinkle with sea salt and leave to cool. Pack into cellophane bags or small jars.

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