Beesnuts, also known as beech masts, are an important, yet often overlooked food source for wildlife. Found in the seeds of beech trees, beech nuts are a high energy, nutrient-dense nut, rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and protein. They are enjoyed by wildlife, such as squirrels and birds, as well as humans who understand their nutritional value and appreciate their distinctive, sweet and crunchy flavor.
Beechnuts have a unique shape which allows them to slip through the beech tree’s small crevices and be dispersed across the woodland floor. They range in size from 4-14mm and are comprised of two halves connected by a thin membrane. The nut inside is surrounded by a thin, beige husk which gives off a pleasant earthy smell when peeled. Getting to the delicious inner nut can take a bit of practice, as the husks on beechnuts are thick, brittle and somewhat difficult to get through.
Beechnuts are an important food source for wildlife because they provide an abundant supply of carbohydrates, fats, proteins and essential vitamins and minerals, giving woodland creatures the energy they need to survive the winter months. With a fat content of between 20-30 percent and protein content of approximately 13 percent, beech nuts are rich in fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins—all of which are crucial for proper bodily functioning and growth. A single beechnut’s energy content is equal to about half of a peanut’s, making it an ideal snack for many animals.
For humans, beechnuts can be eaten raw or roasted. Many people enjoy their sweet and crunchy flavor and are often used as an additive to salads, soups, or baked goods. Raw beechnuts are hard and difficult to chew, so they are usually roasted or boiled first to make them more palatable. Roasted beechnuts can be added to oatmeal, cereal, or other dishes, or ground up into a paste and added to smoothies. Alternatively, to make a healthy snack mix, beechnuts can be combined with other nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.
Beechnuts have a long history of being part of humanity’s diet, stretching back to the hunter-gatherer days. From the Beech tree growing wildly through Europe, Africa, and parts of Asia, beechnuts have also been treasured by multiple cultures around the world, who value them for their nutrient-dense properties and intense flavor.
Beechnuts are not only a popular food source for humans and wildlife alike, but they are also highly prized for their potential medicinal benefits. Historical reports indicate that beechnuts have been used since ancient times to treat a variety of conditions, primarily as an anti-inflammatory to relieve pain and inflammation. Research still today shows that beechnuts contain powerful antioxidants, which can help protect the body against oxidative stress and disease.
Beech nuts are an incredibly valuable, yet often overlooked nut that offers a variety of nutritional and medicinal benefits. Not only do they provide a varied and nutritious food source for birds, squirrels, and other animals, but they are also an excellent snack for humans that can be added to food and drinks. Whether eaten raw or roasted, beechnuts can add a unique, delicious flavor and provide your body with essential vitamins, minerals and fatty acids.