Nuts are identified by individual characteristics such as shape, color, size and flavor. Popular nut varieties include peanuts, pistachios, walnuts, cashews and almonds. Nuts have distinctive shells such as the figure-eight shell of the peanut, and the partially opened pistachio shell, which resembles a clam. The size of the nut is also a tell-tale identifier, and large nuts such as pecans and walnuts are commonly used whole in desserts.
Visually, nuts are easy to tell apart simply by looking at their shape. For instance, walnuts have two bulky ends connected by a short center. Nuts that are round in shape include macadamia nuts, hazelnuts and marcona almonds. Many nuts are elongated in shape such as almonds, peanuts and pecans. Brazil nuts are large in shape and are light in color with dark-brown skin.
Most nuts have light- or dark-brown skin that is often left intact, but pistachios are distinctive for their green-colored skin. Tasting nuts is the best way to identify their unique characteristics. Almonds are used in a wide variety of baked goods and chocolate candy, because their mild, sweet flavor complements other ingredients. The earthy flavor of peanuts is used to make peanut butter, and the delicate flavor of pine nuts is perfect for pesto sauce.