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Best source for nuts

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I wanted to do more research before making this post, but time is of the essence (given the time of year).

 

(By the way, here, again, is where we need a wiki!!)

 

Options:

 

Large quantities:

 

Haag Farm (walnuts only)

 

- Quality? Excellent.

- Variety? Walnuts only (but many kinds of walnuts).

- Prices? Excellent.

- Transparency? Good (at least good; not enough info to know whether it's excellent -- they're in the middle of the harvest season, didn't want to harass them with a bunch of questions.).

- BBB rating: F.

 

Sun Organic Farm

 

- Quality? Full report when I receive my 10 lbs. each of pistachios and almonds (probably Monday). 2015-10-28 Update: Quality: excellent! Details in separate new post in this thread.

- Variety? Excellent.

- Prices? Good.

- Transparency? Excellent. (I called and got no nonsense answers about harvest times and other matters -- not hard sell as in "We won't have this year's pecans for another month but you can rest assured ... yada yada.").

- BBB rating: A.

 

Smaller quantities:

 

Nuts.com

 

- Quality? Average.

- Variety? Excellent.

- Prices? A bit high, not including shipping. (But shipping is cheap.)

- Transparency? Good, according to Michael Rae (not his term - he might say "excellent").

- BBB rating: D+ (http://www.bbb.org/new-jersey/business-reviews/nuts-edible/nuts-com-inc-in-cranford-nj-27000320 [1]).

 

 

- Quality? Excellent.

- Variety? Somewhat limited.

- Prices? Good to excellent, but shipping adds a lot (proportionally) to an order of a few pounds or less. Buying more than a few pound bags of nuts means you save over Nuts.com.

- Transparency? Excellent (based on my own experience).

- BBB rating: A+.

 
(See above.)
 
 
FAQ.
 
- You recommend Living Nutz over Nuts.com, the favorite of at least several people in the CR Society - say what?!
 
Yes, strongly. I challenge Michael and Dean and anyone else who uses nuts.com to order walnuts from Living Nutz and compare to the walnuts you've ordered from Nuts.com. A good 1/5 of my walnuts from Nuts.com were not really "light" grade, but close to amber, which generally (not always, though) means older and more exposed to oxygen. Several were actually dried up and shriveled (not edible). Only once have I had a walnut from Living Nutz that wasn't essentially perfect. Maybe I had bad luck with that one bag of walnuts, or maybe I have higher standards (though I doubt it).
 
In a pound bag of hazelnuts from Nuts.com, I had around 12-15 "bad" ones (often not noticeable if you don't soak for several hours). That indicates bad quality control somewhere along the line. In a total of maybe 15 pound bags of nuts from Living Nutz, I've had one bad walnut ("sunburned"), and one bad almond. That's it.
 
Don't want to go all hippy on you but I also like the fact that Living Nutz doesn't sell any candied or damaged (i.e., roasted!) nuts or seeds.
 
I also encourage you to email the owner Davy Colin (indo@) or call (207-780-1101) and pose whatever questions you want.
 
Zeta
 
[1] I'm getting an error message: "You have entered a link to website the admin. doesn't allow ...". WTF?
Edited by Zeta

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Why do you rate nuts.com's quality as only "average," Zeta? Their nuts' quality has been consistently excellent by all aesthetic criteria, which (aside from doing my diligence on harvest times and their storage and packaging practices, which are solid) are my only means of addressing the question; do you have a private lab ;) ?

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Why do you rate nuts.com's quality as only "average," Zeta?

 

For the reasons given: larger proportion of "bad" nuts (partly rotten in the case of the hazelnuts; and sub-"light" in the case of the walnuts) than with other sources. You may have missed that (scroll towards end of my post).

 

 

Do you have a private lab ;) ?

 

No more than you do ;)

 

 

Again: I suggest taking the Living Nutz challenge!

 

Zeta

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Why do you rate nuts.com's quality as only "average," Zeta?

 

For the reasons given: larger proportion of "bad" nuts (partly rotten in the case of the hazelnuts; and sub-"light" in the case of the walnuts) than with other sources. You may have missed that (scroll towards end of my post).

Ah. I didn't read the "FAQ", because I thought it was er, a FAQ ;) , rather than your reasons for your ratings.

 

I'm surprised by your experience: mine has consistently been excellent over many years. I've overwhelmingly bought things when they're freshly-harvested, but even the one time I (knowing I wasn't going to do better on harvest time anywhere else, and knowing their storage practices, and needing to get a certain tiny woman a form of omega-6 she would eat ;) ) ordered at another time they were still the freshest walnuts I had ever tasted — and these were pre-shelled, and as you know, walnuts are exceptionally prone to oxidation.

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Ah. I didn't read the "FAQ", because I thought it was er, a FAQ ;) , rather than your reasons for your ratings.

 

 

It is, er, a FAQ (you don't know the half of it -- if you want to be cc'd on email nut discussions, let me know... though I'm encouraging people to go public and post here) -- but it is also reasons for my ratings.

 

I trust you on your account of experiences with Nuts.com. Mine have been different, though much more limited, to be sure.

 

But since my experience with Living Nutz has been so positive, and their prices are better (even including shipping, when ordering more than a few bags of nuts), I would recommend trying them.

 

Zeta

Edited by Zeta

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For example, in a lb. bag from Nuts.com, I found several nuts that looked like the one on the left in the attached image (image is of two actual nuts in the bag I recently bought from Nuts.com), and many that were in-between in color and "shriveledness". That's unacceptable. Have you bought walnuts from them recently?

 

post-6938-0-87138300-1445570173_thumb.jpg

 

But again, it may just be bad luck on my part. But as noted, there were problems with the hazelnuts too. And the raw cashews had small pieces of the shell on some of the nuts (which pieces can in fact contain a non-trivial toxin).

 

Zeta

 

Edit: higher resolution image attached (the little one shown is a thumbnail you can click on).

Edited by Zeta

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Update: I added links to the Better Business Bureau ratings. Note: these are of minimal value (but not zero value)! Read the actual details. But they still provide information. (Haag's "F" might just mean they're too busy to deal with whining customers. Living Nutz's A+ might just mean they're a very small business -- though they're not that small.)

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For example, in a lb. bag from Nuts.com, I found several nuts that looked like the one on the left in the attached image (image is of two actual nuts in the bag I recently bought from Nuts.com), and many that were in-between in color and "shriveledness". That's unacceptable. Have you bought walnuts from them recently?

 

Zeta,

 

Thanks for sharing your experience with bad walnuts from Nuts.com. That's disappointing. Walnuts and almonds are the two nuts I actually don't purchase from Nuts.com, getting them from Costco instead. I find the quality and cost for these two nuts to be quite high at CostCo.

 

--Dean

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For example, in a lb. bag from Nuts.com, I found several nuts that looked like the one on the left in the attached image (image is of two actual nuts in the bag I recently bought from Nuts.com), and many that were in-between in color and "shriveledness". That's unacceptable. Have you bought walnuts from them recently?

 

attachicon.gifNuts.com walnuts.jpg

 

But again, it may just be bad luck on my part. But as noted, there were problems with the hazelnuts too. And the raw cashews had small pieces of the shell on some of the nuts (which pieces can in fact contain a non-trivial toxin).

 

Zeta

 

Edit: higher resolution image attached (the little one shown is a thumbnail you can click on).

 

For what reason(s) do you think the walnut on the left is the less desirable of the two?

 

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Brett: 1) Darkness indicates exposure to oxygen in most varieties of walnuts (including Chandler); 2) shriveledness usually indicates excessive exposure to heat in the drying process; 3) (not obvious from picture, of course) I bit into the one of the left and it tasted rancid.

 

Zeta

 

P. S. Brett, any reason why you're quoting full posts? The great thing about switching from the lists is that we can have a "cleaner" text mass.

Edited by Zeta

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I've overwhelmingly bought things when they're freshly-harvested, but even the one time I (knowing I wasn't going to do better on harvest time anywhere else, and knowing their storage practices [...].

 

Do their storage practices involve freezing, or refrigeration?

 

You dug up fascinating and surprising info (note: link likely dead, because archives still down...) about harm done to beneficial olive oil components from excessive cooling. I wonder whether something similar might happen with nuts. I'd guess not, since the problem - or rather a problem - with cooling olive oil involves what happens because of phase transitions. But other mechanisms may be involved.

 

I couldn't find anything on nuts and cooling via a quick PubMed search.

 

Zeta

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My raw almonds and pistachios arrived yesterday from Sun Organic Farm. They are excellent quality. 10 lbs of each. They are packed in well-sealed, fairly thick plastic bags: 3 3-lb bags and 1 1-lb bag each.

 

believe the plastic is thick enough to provide a good moisture barrier, but I'm not 100% certain. I think I'm going to risk it and put the bags in some combo of fridge and freezer.

 

The almonds and pistachios are freshly harvested. If you want to place a large order with Sun Organic, mention the CR Society citizen science project about nuts (which very few of you have even heard of - more details as/when it develops), and David (the, or one of the, owners) might be accommodating when it comes to shipping.

 

Zeta

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Update on Nuts.com. I complained about the walnuts and hazelnuts, and got $20 store credit.

 

The email response I got said the problem was ~"end of season blues" (i.e., quality suffers when one is buying nuts from last year's harvest). But with the right storage and packaging practices, which, Michael, you suggest they have, 10- or 11-month-old nuts should have been OK.

 

Zeta

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Just wondering - are roasted nuts (like roasted cashews) bad? Might they contain oxidized lipids?

 

You wondered it before — and we discussed it. If anyone has further thoughts on the subject, I'd recommend discussing it there: this thread is on "Best Source for Nuts."

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Brett: 1) Darkness indicates exposure to oxygen in most varieties of walnuts (including Chandler); 2) shriveledness usually indicates excessive exposure to heat in the drying process; 3) (not obvious from picture, of course) I bit into the one of the left and it tasted rancid.

 

Zeta

You made some other comments about the possible significance and meaning of various aesthetic qualities of walnuts over here too:

https://www.crsociety.org/topic/11315-great-source-for-walnuts/

 

What I'm wondering (and part of the driving reason for my previous post) is: what are you basing this information/interpretation on? And, how confident are you and should we be that this information/interpretation is accurate and/or useful?

 

 

P. S. Brett, any reason why you're quoting full posts? The great thing about switching from the lists is that we can have a "cleaner" text mass.

Even though it was quoting an entire post it was still a short quote and gave quick and easy context (rather than having to read through the thread, or scroll back up and search etc).

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Brett, any reason why you're quoting full posts? The great thing about switching from the lists is that we can have a "cleaner" text mass.

Even though it was quoting an entire post it was still a short quote and gave quick and easy context (rather than having to read through the thread, or scroll back up and search etc).

 

You have a highly expansive understanding of a "short quote" ;) . I would suggest you'd've given readers a clearer picture of the relevant context by trimming it down to:

  

For example, in a lb. bag from Nuts.com, I found several nuts that looked like the one on the left [very dark and shriveled] .... and many that were in-between in color and "shriveledness". That's unacceptable.

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Hi, Brett,

 

 Brett: 1) Darkness indicates exposure to oxygen in most varieties of walnuts (including Chandler); 2) shriveledness usually indicates excessive exposure to heat in the drying process; 3) (not obvious from picture, of course) I bit into the one of the left and it tasted rancid.

What I'm wondering (and part of the driving reason for my previous post) is: what are you basing this information/interpretation on? And, how confident are you and should we be that this information/interpretation is accurate and/or useful?
 
#1 and (especially) #2 are based on discussions with people in the nut industry.
 
#3 is sort-of common sense.
 
How confident am I? I'm very confident in #2 and #3 (means of determining claimed property, and usefulness of (avoidance of) said property).
 
#1 I'm less sure about. Some varieties of walnuts naturally have a darker pellicle, "right out of the shell", so it can't be a criterion across all types of walnuts for exposure to oxygen. But I'm fairly confident that for a given variety, like Chandler, darker means older/more exposed to oxygen.
 
By the way, read this short blog post, "Walnut - fresh - peeled and skinned". Focus particularly on the photos at the bottom. That's the ideal walnut (ideal Chandler, or similar, in any event).

Find a walnut in your cupboard and compare the colours...

 

Invest in a walnut tree.
 
Indeed!
 
Zeta
 
Edit: link to blog added. Thanks, Dean!
Edited by Zeta

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Nuts.com

 

- Quality? Average.

- Variety? Excellent.

- Prices? A bit high, not including shipping. (But shipping is cheap.)

- Transparency? Good, according to Michael Rae (not his term - he might say "excellent").

- BBB rating: D+ (http://www.bbb.org/new-jersey/business-reviews/nuts-edible/nuts-com-inc-in-cranford-nj-27000320 [1]).

 

By the way, this transparency criterion Michael has mentioned is starting to seem odd to me. What does it mean? Harvest dates aren't on the websites of any of these companies, aside from Haag Farm. So it means you call and ask questions about harvest dates, transport, and storage, and they answer? So? Would there be a company that would not answer? Do we have independent criteria the answer is honest and complete?

 

By the way, update: I complained to Nuts.com about the bad nuts and was told:

 

"It looks like you're experiencing some of the 'end of season" blues.'" They gave me some store credit.

 

I ordered nuts from Living Nutz at the same time (10-11 months after the 2014 harvest) and experienced no "blues". So who has the better storage?

 

Let's not be Nuts.com lemmings. Or: give me a reason to think they're really good and reliable and that my experience is outlier-ish. Above all, I'd like to know what this transparency criterion means. I'd love to start a movement, by the way, to try to get online nut companies to be as bold as Amphora Nueva is with olive oil: online harvest dates! It's risky: some people ignore the older products (this, obvviously, is why online food companies are not as transparent as we'd like), but I would reward any online nut company that took that bold step!

 

- Zeta

Edited by Zeta

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Zeta wrote:

Let's not be Nuts.com lemmings. Or: give me a reason to think they're really good and reliable and that my experience is outlier-ish. 

 

So what evidence would you accept that your experience is not "outlier-ish"? 

 

You got a few bad nuts at the end of season. I've been ordering from Nuts.com for years and haven't had trouble with any nuts that don't seem fresh. This would seem to me to make your (admittedly unfortunate) experience almost definitional of "outlier-ish". It would be nice if all (or any!) on-line purveyors would harvest date their nuts and seeds, but that doesn't seem to be happening.

 

 

Zeta wrote (on the seeking nut recommendations thread:

Hazelnuts is where (based on one purchase from nuts.com, and two from Living Nutz), I saw the greatest difference in quality. Many of the hazelnuts from Nuts.com were bad. Important: I didn't notice this until after I soaked them.

 

That is interesting. Last week, based on success with buying walnuts directly from Haag Farm, I took a chance and ordered hazelnuts directly from a farm in Oregon, Freddy Guys Hazelnuts, after verifying with them (via email - very responsive) that they were shipping freshly harvested nuts from this fall's harvest. I received them a few days ago, and overall I'm pretty pleased with their quality. They indeed seem a bit fresher than the one's I've purchased from Nuts.com recently, which is somewhat understandable since these from Freddy Guys are fresh harvested, whereas the Nuts.com ones I ordered a couple months ago are almost certainly from last year's harvest.

 

Three things I did notice about with the Freddy Guys hazelnuts:

  • There seem to be more broken pieces of nuts than I remember from previous hazelnuts I've purchased from Nuts.com
  • There seems to be more "inner peel" (chaff?) clinging to the Freddy Guy hazelnuts, and in the bottom of the bag, than the Nuts.com hazelnuts.
  • They seem more non-uniform (larger variety in size and color) than I remember the hazelnuts from Nuts.com

Here is what I'm talking about with the inner peel (chaff?) - see the inner shell coating clinging to the nut? There is more of that in the Freddy Guys order:

 

post-7043-0-70716900-1447268629_thumb.jpg

 

Here is a photo of a random sample of a couple hundred hazelnuts from the Freddy Guys order, so you can judge for yourself (click to enlarge):

 

post-7043-0-92397700-1447269029_thumb.jpg

 

Here is a link to a high res version of this image, for anyone who wants to take a closer look.

 

As you can see, some of the nuts are darker than others, primarily because they have more of the skin/peal/chaff on them. As you can see there are quite a few broken ones too.

 

Overall, I believe the Freddy Guys nuts are quite fresh, but I'm not so blown away by them that I'd never again order from anywhere else, including Nuts.com.

 

it may be that I'm not so particular about my nuts...

 

But having said that, I trust your judgment Zeta, so I'm going to give Living Nutz a try for my next order. It won't be for a while though, since I'm well stocked with nuts and seeds as a result of my recent purchases from Haag Farm, Freddy Guys, and Nuts.com.

 

--Dean

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My Nuts.com order arrived. You just gotta love a company that knows you well enough to send you a free hat, customized for your personality!

 

My wife said "how'd they know?" :Dxyz

 

--Dean

 

P.S. The other perk in the box was the free pecan pie. I gave it to my wife and daughter, thinking they might keep it frozen until Thanksgiving. Apparently they couldn't wait, and had slices of it for dessert last night. They said it was delicious!

 

post-7043-0-53216800-1447371575_thumb.jpg

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Ha ha! Ages ago I ordered some nuts from Nuts.com, including some walnuts that were for April — the first time I had ordered something specifically for her. By striking coincidence, they came with a stuffed Nuts.com elephant. As I think she will forgive me for revealing, she has a penchant for stuffed animals ...

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Dean,

 

Thanks for the tip about Freddy Guys! I might try them. Note, though, that I'm slightly - only slightly, but still - less positive about buying directly from farms than I was. Farms won't necessarily have as good quality-control measures in place as (some) distributors or sellers of nuts. Indeed, I've noticed more bad walnuts in my Haag Farm order than I expected. See the attached picture. (For all of the following pictures, click to get higher-res version.)

 

post-6938-0-31323700-1447514770_thumb.jpg

 

1.

 

As I noted before, a darker color in the pellicle doesn't necessarily mean more degradation than a lighter color -- I believe it depends on the variety (Yolo Red is a new variety I don't know much about) -- but within the same batch, it almost certainly does.

 

2.

 

Then there's the problem of excessive drying (or "burning", as it's sometimes called in the industry):

 

post-6938-0-29323600-1447515418_thumb.jpg

 

3.

 

Finally, there are the signs of moisture-induced oxidation. Not a great picture, but note the lighter and darker areas in the flesh:

 

post-6938-0-02765400-1447515528.jpg

 

It's hard to see, but it's unmistakeable. The flesh of Chandlers should be light.

 
Note, though, that the overwhelming majority of the walnuts from Haag Farm have been of excellent quality!

 

it may be that I'm not so particular about my nuts...

 

If you've never considered any of the above three criteria, I would tend to agree. :)

 

 

But having said that, I trust your judgment Zeta, so I'm going to give Living Nutz a try for my next order.

 

I'm confident you won't be disappointed. Percentage bad walnuts from the places I've ordered walnuts from is, from worst (highest %) to best is:

 

Nuts.com (far worse than the next two, though limited sample).

Haag Farms

Living Nutz

 

Zeta

 

 

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By the way, this transparency criterion Michael has mentioned is starting to seem odd to me. What does it mean? Harvest dates aren't on the websites of any of these companies, aside from Haag Farm. So it means you call and ask questions about harvest dates, transport, and storage, and they answer? So? Would there be a company that would not answer? Do we have independent criteria the answer is honest and complete?

 

It's odd, only in the sense that it's an "odd" world we live in, with information asymmetry a pervasive feature of markets, and the very food we eat being one of the most opaque.

 

"Would there be a company that would not answer?" Well, yes — almost any of them. To start, if you go where the vast bulk of nuts are bought and sold (either in bulk bins, or via mainstream brands sold in supermarkets), this information won't be available at all: they'll either simply say that the information is proprietary, or plead ignorance beyond the 'best by' date (for prepackaged nuts), and in many cases genuinely won't even nave a good answer internally (as it's always mixed from multiple global sources).

 

Smaller and more boutique operations still include plenty of businesses in the above categories. Others will not routinely track such info or have it to hand, and will have to dig and dig to get it, and will only give it to you after much pestering — and then the answers are often not good, as occurred to me recently, with a company whose nuts ultimately proved to be nearly two years old and clearly past their prime on sheer aesthetic grounds.

 

Many will have the information but will dodge the question and/or work aggressively to dissuade one from asking questions or to put aside one's concerns (you've yourself apparently experienced cases vendors who give the  "hard sell as in "We won't have this year's pecans for another month but you can rest assured ... yada yada").

 

You're right about the lack of independent criteria: this is, of course, endemic to food and supplements alike. With the strong exception of the more authoritative Kosher seals (whose value I in any case place at zero) and the weak exception of organic certification, there is essentially  none such in food or supplements: at best, one gets things like Certificates of Analysis of a vendor's product that was conducted on the product or raw material when they bought it from their supplier, but contracted and paid for at a reputable outside lab by the vendor itself. No one is offering baseline CoAs on nuts for oxidative, Maillard, or other aspects of chemistry of nuts at harvest, nor ongoing spot-testing of nuts or EVOO or anything else.

 

As with most things in life, it's relative: one still wants the best one can get.

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