The price of nuts and some great substitutes

By: Melinda Yates

There has been quite a price rise in the nuts we sell here at Infinity Foods over the last couple of months and a few of our customers are coming and asking us why. I thought I would write this post because it looks like it might be a little while yet before things get much better. Nuts and seeds are just like fruit and veg, they are a product that is grown by farmers, in nature and therefore, subject to weather conditions. The weather seems to be getting more extreme and more unpredictable every year and so it’s much harder to know what the farmers of these fair-trade products are facing, as well as the impact it has on the consumers.

This year, a lack of rainfall in the Amazon, where most of the Brazil nut trees are located, has meant the crop of Brazils has been down by 70%. The nut pods have been unable to grow to their usual size and weight, so in turn, they are not falling from the trees (which grow up to 40-50 metres high). It is far too dangerous for the collectors of the nuts to be climbing these trees, so the only hope is that as time continues on, more pods will fall to the ground and Brazils will start making their way back into the marketplace. For now though, it is a hard time for everyone involved. In this Amazon region, the Brazil business is one of the very few industries, so the insufficient rainfall is affecting people’s ability to make a living.

One of the companies that we buy snack bars from, Eat Natural, usually have a Brazil nut and fruit bar. They have had to actually change the recipe of their popular snack bar for the first time, and are using almonds instead. This just goes to show the impact that it is having on all subsequent industries, and therefore, consumers.

As a consumer of lots of nuts and seeds myself, I have noticed having to make some different decisions when shopping at the moment, but you know what, going without some nuts here and there pales in comparison to what the growers and harvesters of these nuts are experiencing. If you’re like me and need to change things up a little, here are some ideas to substitute nuts and seeds you normally use, to make them more affordable, but just as delicious and nutritious.

Instead of Brazil Nuts, blanched almonds can be used as an alternative in baking. Almonds have a similar texture when blanched and work well in baking or as a snack in a trail mix. If you are eating Brazils for their high selenium content, sunflower and sesame seeds contain good amounts of selenium. Tahini is a great source of selenium because it is purely made of sesame seeds!

Instead of using pine nuts in pesto or salad, try some lightly toasted sunflower seeds. They work really well in a pesto and when toasted give a lovely depth of flavour. Topping a salad with sunflower or pumpkin seeds, either raw or toasted, give an amazing texture and any recipe calling for pine nuts can be just as tasty when replaced with sunflower seeds.

Pecans are a bit on the pricey side as well and although their flavour is quite unique, the texture can be replaced by walnuts in baked goods and cakes. Walnuts and pecans are related so even though they can taste a little different, they can give you and your foods similar benefits when eating them.

Macadamia nuts are also quite easy to replace in recipes. They are a fatty, creamy nut that has a subtle sweetness, so cashews make the perfect substitute for them if required in a recipe.