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Am I Plum Nuts?

 
Anne Miller
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Am I the only person who has eaten a plum nut?  Why are they not as popular as almonds?  So I did some research to find out.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_culinary_nuts  There was no mention of Plums

"The term stone fruit (also stonefruit) can be a synonym for drupe or, more typically, it can mean just the fruit of the genus Prunus."

"In botany, a drupe (or stone fruit) is an indehiscent fruit in which an outer fleshy part (exocarp, or skin; and mesocarp, or flesh) surrounds a shell (the pit, stone, or pyrene) of hardened endocarp with a seed (kernel) inside."

"Some flowering plants that produce drupes are coffee, jujube, mango, olive, most palms (including date, sabal, coconut and oil palms), pistachio, white sapote, and all members of the genus Prunus, including the almond (in which the mesocarp is somewhat leathery), apricot, cherry, damson, nectarine, peach, and plum."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drupe

So I still have found no mention of eating plum nuts which taste like an almonds.

"Are Stone Fruit Seeds Poisonous?
The seeds (also known as pits or kernels) of stone fruits, such as apricots, cherries, plums, and peaches, do contain a compound called amygdalin, which breaks down into hydrogen cyanide when ingested. And, yes, hydrogen cyanide is definitely a poison.

But you can relax: The recipe calls for the seeds to be roasted. According to The Food Safety Hazard Guidebook, hydrogen cyanide is not a heat-stable substance and does not survive cooking. It may also help to consider that stone fruit seeds are just some of many common edibles that contain similar compounds when raw. Cassava (tapioca), lima beans, butter beans, sorghum, macadamia nuts, and flaxseed also contain significant amounts of cyanide but are safely eaten after appropriately processed: crushing, grinding, grating, soaking, fermenting, and drying all help make the items edible. "

http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/food/are-stone-fruit-seeds-poisonous

So now I am really plum nuts over plum nuts!   What do you think?  Have I found culinary secret?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Plums have a super-hard shell compared to almonds, thus diminishing their popularity as a food.


"Are Stone Fruit Seeds Poisonous? The seeds [...] contain a compound called amygdalin, which breaks down into hydrogen cyanide when ingested. And, yes, hydrogen cyanide is definitely a poison. [...] According to The Food Safety Hazard Guidebook, hydrogen cyanide is not a heat-stable substance and does not survive cooking.


The nuts are not roasted after they are ingested... In otherwords, it doesn't matter if hydrogen cyanide is heat-stable or not, since it isn't present during roasting, only after eating.
 
Casie Becker
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If roasting really does destroy the poisons in the seed, then yes I think you have found a culinary secret. They even come with a great naming option for marketing purposes.

On top of that, in my experience plums are far more productive with far less input than peaches. They thrive in a far greater climate range. The tree is much smaller than most nut trees. And they are fast to produce. This could be the perfect nut tree for the home gardener and hobby farmer.

I could really get excited for this. Generally I'm kinda neutral about plums. That's why I haven't planted one yet. If they also have a almond like nut, then maybe I better plant some this year. I'm gonna watch this thread with interest.
 
Burra Maluca
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:

"Are Stone Fruit Seeds Poisonous? The seeds [...] contain a compound called amygdalin, which breaks down into hydrogen cyanide when ingested. And, yes, hydrogen cyanide is definitely a poison. [...] According to The Food Safety Hazard Guidebook, hydrogen cyanide is not a heat-stable substance and does not survive cooking.


The nuts are not roasted after they are ingested... In otherwords, it doesn't matter if hydrogen cyanide is heat-stable or not, since it isn't present during roasting, only after eating.


So what about the amygdalin?  Is that heat stable?  If it is, there doesn't seem much point roasting them as the hydrogen cyanide will still form after it's eaten.
 
Casie Becker
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Okay, a little poking around finds this article http://www.foodsafety.govt.nz/elibrary/industry/Cyanogenic_Glycosides-Toxin_Which.pdf which includes a chart saying that bitter almonds contain approx seven times the same toxin (amygdalin) as plum kernels. I'm having a hard time finding the processing technique, but they definitely grow and market bitter almonds as food, so I'm gonna say all we need is the proper processing for the plum nuts.
 
Rebecca Norman
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I'm pretty sure it's the amygdalin that you can destroy by cooking, so then there's no cyanide created. I've done it, removed the amygdalin by cooking.

Here in Ladakh we have lots of apricots, not many plums. The two best varieties of apricots here have sweet seeds that lack amygdalin, are not bitter, and are not toxic. You can gobble them down like almonds, but only if they are not bitter. Everyone here knows that bitter apricot seeds are something you shouldn't eat many of. Three or four is fine, but don't gobble a handful.

The bitter seeds are considered more valuable for their oil. I guess amygdalin is not in the oil, because the oil is not bitter and not toxic, though here it's used for religious purposes, not eaten (I've used it as salad dressing). But the oilcake (residue from expressing the oil) is well known to be highly toxic. Good friends of mine left a sack of it in their front corridor, and it smelled so good that two cows squeezed in and died right there in the corridor with their mouths and throats full. It was hell to get them out! However, a small handful of the oil cake used be given as a sort of daily tonic mixed with the daily food for the cows, though perhaps that was more for lack of rich food than for any major benefit.

But there is a traditional dish where you take the bitter seeds, grind them and stir them into boiling water, and then boil it for a good long time, until all the bitterness and toxicity is gone. Make sure you do this outdoors or in a well ventilated kitchen; a friend told me she did it indoors and started feeling a bit strange until she moved it outdoors. The traditional recipe is to add onions and garlic and use it as the gravy on a lumpy heavy pasta thing, kind of like peanut sauce. When I've made it, I've reserved some to add sugar and make a lovely almond amaretto-scented pudding. The last time I made it with my students, we were trying to make a huge amount for an upcoming party and it never lost its bitterness. I think we were trying to make too much at once and the liquid was too deep in the pot for the amygdalin to evaporate out well. We ended up throwing it away ... So from the previous times we made it, I'll recommend do it in as large-bottomed pot as you can, and make it no more than 2 or 3 inches (5 - 7 cm) deep, and stir it and agitate it continuously while boiling vigorously for at least a half hour. I've been told it loses the bitterness much faster if you churn it in a Ladakhi tea churn; but I don't think you'll have one of those at home.

I don't know if roasting the plum nuts would let the amygdalin out, considering that we have to grind the apricot nuts and stir them in boiling water for at least half an hour to get it out.

Interestingly, the sweet apricot nuts, unlike almonds, taste better unroasted. When roasted, they lose most of their sweet amaretto scent.
 
Rebecca Norman
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Continued...
Grinding-bitter-apricot-seeds-for-prapu.jpg
[Thumbnail for Grinding-bitter-apricot-seeds-for-prapu.jpg]
Boiling-ground-bitter-apricot-seeds-for-prapu.JPG
[Thumbnail for Boiling-ground-bitter-apricot-seeds-for-prapu.JPG]
Boiling-ground-bitter-apricot-seeds-for-prapu-2.JPG
[Thumbnail for Boiling-ground-bitter-apricot-seeds-for-prapu-2.JPG]
 
Casie Becker
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Okay, some good information seems to be in this article http://articles.latimes.com/2002/feb/20/food/fo-almond20 , though this article https://www.smartkitchen.com/resources/bitter-almonds also has some good information. The important part here seems to be that the amygdalin breaks down to form hydrocyanic acid when it gets wet. The toxins in bamboo shoots break down into the same form and all bamboo must be processed to remove the cyanide. With that information I find this paper https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/publications/documents/28_Cyanogenic_glycosides.pdf which contains this information Bamboo shoots were cooked (one part bamboo shoots, 4 parts water) for 20, 100 and 180 minutes at 98 degrees C/ambient pressure, The shoots were then cooled in water, canned and sterilized.  The maximum removal of HCN was about 97%. The optimum conditions that resulted in this reduction of HCN were 98-102 degrees C for 148-180 minutes. That suggests to me that a long enough soak to break down all the amygdalin followed by a long boil to evaporate the cyanide would render plum seeds safe for consumption. I can see why the traditional preparations for bitter almonds that Rebecca knows involve grinding the nuts.

I haven't done any studies about this, but I have now decided that I will try soaking our peach kernels for a few days and then cooking them in the crock pot for at least a full eight hours, this next spring. Considering how much easier they are to shell than pecans I think they'll still be less labor intensive to harvest. I'd appreciate it if someone asks me about it next year, if I don't post an update. If I forget to try it with our peach trees, they fruit at the beginning of the season and I could still experiment with store bought peaches later.

edit: removed the word best, there's probably better but I haven't found it yet.
 
John Weiland
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Hmmmm......interesting thread.  Starting from this link ==>  http://www.forestandfauna.com/summer-salad-with-toasted-wild-plum-pit-nuts/  ; ==> I'm intrigued by the possibility of another nut for northern regions.  We have a lot....a LOT!....of wild plum on our property.  They don't seem to be terribly long-lived, but they reproduce like crazy and are considered a large, brush-like item in our wind-break efforts.  In really good years, the flesh is tasty and valued for drying, jams, and freezer storage.  But some years the output is high, but the quality of the fruit rather low.....BUT still producing abundant pits.  So it may be interesting try try cracking a bunch in the future to see if it's worth getting the nut.  Come to think of it, I have a few large bags in the freezer of unpitted plums from a few years back and could thaw these for a test.
 
Anne Miller
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I found the plum nuts by accident.  I have dried plums aka prunes. I always buy the ones with seeds.  In one I found that the shell was broken in two.  After sucking on it a while I spit out the shell and the seed.  I thought this looks just like an almond.  I am saving all my seeds so I tossed it with the other plum seeds.

Then I read here on permies about people eating apple seeds even though they have cyanide. So the next time I ate a prune with a broken shell, I ate the seed.  To me it tasted about like almonds, except not so hard.

I just crack one open.  It was easier than some pecans.  But the seed had a thick sweet syrup on it and was rather hard so I will have to read more on the subject. 
 
Rebecca Norman
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I forgot to mention, we open the apricot seeds by cracking them on any rough or concave rock, with a smaller stone. The first few you don't know how hard to hit so you crush the shell and nutmeat together, but after 2 or 3 you can get the hang of it and steadily crack them all with just the right blow from a stone in your hand. Then you pick through and separate the shells out. It's the kind of work given to the household elders to do in the autumn, sitting in the chilly golden autumn sunlight, not too vigorous.

Anne, be careful about eating too many of those plum seeds. In Ladakh I've noticed some foreigners, having been given some sweet seeded apricots to crack and eat, think they can eat all the apricot seeds, and then start cracking and eating even the bitter ones. When I say "Whoah, don't eat too many of those! Didn't you notice they're bitter?" They'll say "Oh, I didn't mind the bitterness" or "I didn't think they were that bitter," and then I have to tell them all about the cyanide. So it seems to me that some people don't mind the bitterness of the amygdalin, or don't even find it bitter. I like bitter gourd, but I don't like those bitter kernels. So do be careful, if you don't find your plum kernels bitter, do check them with other people, and don't assume they're a safe variety until you're sure they're not bitter to others as well.
 
Anne Miller
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Thanks, everyone for the comments and information.

Rebecca, I love seeing pictures of your students doing the manual labor involved in processing your food.

So far I have only eaten three, about one a week.  I don't really like bitter things, though I can't say I have tasted much.  I have by accident occasionally gotten a bitter apple seed which I spit out because it was bitter. I really can't image people eating apples seeds but they do. I can't image these Plum seeds as bitter with that sweet syrup that was on the one I cracked.  I worried about tasting that syrup and the seed was so hard that I soaked it in water until it plumped up.  Thanks for the concern though.
 
Hans Quistorff
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So far I have only eaten three, about one a week.  I don't really like bitter things, though I can't say I have tasted much.  I have by accident occasionally gotten a bitter apple seed which I spit out because it was bitter. I really can't image people eating apples seeds but they do. I can't image these Plum seeds as bitter with that sweet syrup that was on the one I cracked.  I worried about tasting that syrup and the seed was so hard that I soaked it in water until it plumped up.

You may be referring to prunes that have been steamed perhaps under pressure to soften them to make them more pleasant to eat.  That would explain the syrup around the kernel because the shell of the pit is designed to soak in water to start the germination  of the seed.

If you were removing pits from plums to dry them [cut them opposite the grove in the flesh and open them like a butterfly and pull the seed from its attachment at the grove] you wold occasionally fine a shell that has split because the seed continued to grow after it started to harden.  This discussion has me thinking that sprouting the seeds might be a way to remove the bitterness and make opening easier. Sort of like pistachios. I have some peach pits so I think I will try sprouting them first. I put all the prune pits in the burnables so I don't have my compost full of volunteers. If I was drying a lot of plums then processing the seeds for the nut meat would seem to be a viable option. If you are pitting cherries that might also be an option.
 
David Livingston
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I am sure I can remember either plum or nectarine nuts being used to make the filling in a stollen .

David
 
Jeanne Wallace
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The OIL from plum nuts is known in nutritional circles, and is sometimes also used in HBA products (lotions, facial creams, etc).
https://www.lamotte-oils.de/en/products/product-range/a/si/p/plum-kernel-oil-1.html
 
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