Trying to figure out what a nut is will drive you nuts. Case in point: Did you know that true nuts are actually fruit, with a shell on the outside and a seed infused with the nut itself (acorns and hazelnuts are classic examples)? Meanwhile, legumes are seeds that are enclosed in a pod, like peanuts and soybeans. Seeds, of course, are just seeds, but there are also “drupes,” which are entirely new to me. Drupes are fruits with a pit inside, and within that pit is a seed. A peach is a drupe, but so is a pecan — we just don’t eat the fruity part of a pecan.
All of this is super confusing. That’s why I’m happy to report that there’s a catch-all term called “culinary nuts,” which basically implies that everything you think is a nut is just a nut, peanuts included.
Speaking of what you think of as a nut, there’s also the human testicles. They’re obviously not a fruit, a legume or a drupe. But because they’re commonly synonymous with nuts, it makes sense to see which culinary nuts — again, let’s forget about the whole fruit/legume/drupe thing — most closely resemble a testicle.
Since there seems to be no definitive list of nuts online, I decided to just go through Wikipedia’s “List of Culinary Nuts” page and check each and every one. The list contained more than 75 different kinds of nuts, but the first entry on the list was the one I thought was the closest testicle analog — the acorn.
Peanuts and pistachios are too small, almonds are too slender, hazelnuts are too round and pecans and walnuts are both too weird. Chestnuts are close, as are cashews, but each of their shapes are slightly off. I also like Brazil nuts for this, but their shape is very irregular. Some more exotic fare is also in the ballpark (sorry) — “Chinese olives” and Australian “bush peanuts,” for instance. To me, though, the acorn still takes the cake. It’s closer to the size of a testicle, and like a human nutsack, it’s smooth and oval in shape. Yes, you’d have to pop the top part off, and yes, that little point at the bottom would be really uncomfortable. But even with all that, it’s hard for me to pick against the acorn.
That said, I’m not sure I’m the right person to make the definitive call. I do have two testicles of my own and I’ve written quite a bit on the subject, but I’m certainly not an expert. The same goes for actual nuts. So I decided to get some outside opinions as well.
According to urologist Alex Shteynshlyuger, calling the testicle a “nut” is a bit of a misnomer. To him, a testicle is more like a fruit than a nut (here we go again). “A healthy testicle has the feel of a ripe tomato — slightly soft, yet not mushy,” he tells me. “It also has a ‘peel’ called the ‘tunica albuginea’ [a layer of fibrous tissue surrounding the testicle]. Inside, there are many ‘seeds’ that are akin to sperm — each is capable of giving life.”
Despite such a smart fruit metaphor (euphemism?), he was still kind enough to play along, and so, when I asked him to pick a nut anyway, he said a chestnut bore the closest resemblance.
For my nut expert, I turned to chef and food journalist Patrick Evans-Hylton, author of the book Nuts: 50 Tasty Recipes, from Crunchy to Creamy and Savory to Sweet, and he hit me back with something I hadn’t even thought about. “Do you want nuts that are shelled or not shelled?” he responded. “Testicles as in a singular, or something that resembles a skin-packed nut?”
While I’d only been thinking about the testicle itself, sans scrotum, I told him that I was open to hearing what he thought about all of the above. “For scrotum-encased testicles, in the plural, the hands-down recipient is the peanut,” he explains. “The webby outer shell encasing two savory nuts inside just screams ‘balls’ to me. And, little known fact, a jar of creamy peanut butter is an affordable and organic substitution for a Fleshlight.”
He adds that, in the category of a single scrotum-encased testicle, the winner goes to the unshelled walnut. “I mean, look at it,” he argues. “It’s bulbous, and it has all those wrinkles. It’s also hefty for its size, and we all know what that means — lots of treats inside. Some compare the walnut to the human brain. I say they’re overthinking that situation.”
Finally, in terms of the simple, naked testicle, Evans-Hylton went with the cashew: “It’s curvy, with a bowled bottom and curved top, which makes it a shoo-in in this category. Plus, the cashew is a rich, oily nut that only amplifies the comparison.”
Some medical drawings I’ve seen of human testicles certainly do have a cashew-like quality to them, but I still think that a full testicle most closely resembles the more symmetrical acorn. Regardless, I’m happy to defer to Evans-Hylton on the matter, given the depths of his nut knowledge and his utter enthusiasm for the question. Besides, I’d have to be nuts to argue with an expert.