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beechnut

 

Botanical name: Fagus sylvatica (red beech)


Buchecker

 

Beechnuts are the nuts of the red beech tree. In the 19th century they, or the oil derived from them, were frequently eaten; later however, they were used only in times of crisis, for example during or after the war to produce oil and ersatz coffee. Today beechnuts are hardly used at all, as they are slightly toxic and can cause vomiting with stomach ache.

The red beech grows on loamy soil in forests, gardens or roadsides. They are found in the northern temperate zones of Europe, America and Asia.


Availability


Fresh nuts can be collected in October.


Appearance, taste, characteristics


Beechnuts are the triangular brown nuts of the red beech. They usually lie in twos in a likewise brown, lignified cupule with soft spines. This breaks open during maturation and the seeds fall to the ground. The cupule follows later.


Ingredients


100 g of raw beechnuts contain:


Beechnuts, raw
Energy (kcal) 588
Water (g) 6,6
Protein (g) 6,2
Fat (g) 47,6
- saturated fatty acids (g) 5,8
- monounsaturated fatty acids (g) 22
- Dpolyunsaturated fatty acids (g) 19,8
Carbohydrates (g) 29,8
Fibre (g) 3,7
Vitamin B1 (mg) 0,5
Vitamin B2 (mg) 0,2
Vitamin B3/ niacin (mg) 2
Vitamin B6 (mg) 0,3
Vitamin E (mg) 2
Iron (mg) 7
Zinc (mg) 10
Potassium (mg) 700
Sodium (mg) 3
Calcium (mg) 1
Copper (mg) 3
Oxalic acid (g) 2,95


100 g of the oil contain:


Beechnut oil
Saturated fatty acids (g) 10 - 12
Oleic acid (g) 45 - 57
Linoleic acid (g) 33 - 38



Harmful substances


Beechnuts contain the toxic substance trimethylamine. Excessive consumption of the nuts can lead to light symptoms of poisoning with vomiting and stomach ache. Through roasting, however, a large portion of the substance can be degraded. At the same time, the aroma is improved.

In addition, the raw nuts contain alkaloids and saponines, which can produce the above-described symptoms especially in sensitive persons. Alkaloids and saponines are also destroyed by heating.

The poisonous oxalic acid is not destroyed, however, and in the end, it is this that restricts the consumption of beechnuts. Oxalic acid is also found in other foods such as rhubarb, mangold, spinach, parsley, sorrel, black and peppermint tea, and chocolate or cocoa. When consumed in large amounts it depletes calcium in the tissues and in the bones, which in serious cases can lead to heart damage and symptoms of paralysis. Even slight cases of poisoning with oxalic acid can cause kidney damage. Therefore, beechnuts are especially harmful in persons with gout, arthritis and kidney diseases. Moreover, oxalic acid inhibits the uptake of iron from foods.

Many differing statements can be found regarding the amount of raw nuts that can be consumed without concern. The only consensus is that special care must be taken with children.


Presumed effect on health


In earlier times an extract was derived from the trunks and branches of the beech that was valued as a disinfectant. Thus it was used for skin diseases and for gout and rheumatism.


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation


Since raw beechnuts contain substances that can cause symptoms of poisoning when large amounts are eaten, consumption should be limited to a small number of nuts.

Roasted or baked, beechnuts can be used as a snack or in cakes. In any case it is advisable to consume dairy products at the same time: They bind the oxalic acid, thus preventing it from causing too much damage in the body.

The kernels consist up to 46% of a light yellow oil. It tastes mild and keeps for quite a long time. It can be extracted from the beechnuts by pressing; the oxalic acid remains in the press cake.

 

 

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