Meet Jason Thomas. The man behind Hunter Gatherer.
You can probably guess by his t-shirt and the banner behind him, what he was representing at PaleoFx 2017. You guessed it. Pili Nuts.
First, let’s make sure you are pronouncing it correctly. “Pee-lee” not “pill-ee” or “pill-lie”.
Over the years, I had heard various bloggers and podcasters talk about them and how addicting they were. As soon as I saw the Hunter Gatherer name on the exhibitor list for PFX17. I plotted my course to Jason’s booth. Ok, truthfully, I jumped up and down once or twice, I was so excited at the prospect of meeting him. As with many folks at PFX17, there is a real person with a real story behind each product. Jason was no exception.
But first, the nuts.
He smiled as he handed over my first sample. Coconut oil and Himalayan salt. His smile was almost smug. He knew what would happen. I would be hooked. The offer of the Turmeric and Black Pepper came next. Again, that knowing smile. Spicy Chili? Yes please. The final sample offered was the Raw Cacao. Done. That was it. My eyes closed and I think I may have swooned on my feet. To say I needed a moment alone with a bag of Pili Nuts would have been an understatement. The mouth-feel of each flavour is incredibly satisfying. This very humble looking nut hides a deep, rich and buttery taste with a silky smooth composure. Think macadamia nut, but smoother. Much smoother. Smoother than Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra kinda smooth. Yeah, that smooth.
I had the chance to chat with Jason while I was in Texas. This was no easy feat, as his is a very popular booth. Jason very graciously allowed me to monopolize his time for an interview and let me rearrange his demonstration table for some pictures. Don’t worry, I put everything back when I was done.
He told me about his days as a crossfit athlete, how a cycling injury derailed him for weeks and how a pili nut tree in the Philippines changed his life.
“The pili nut starts out as a green fruit. As it ripens, it goes very dark. Once it is ready, the fruit is harvested by knocking the tree and the ripe fruit falls to the ground. The outer fruit is removed and an ultra-hard nut is revealed. It is so hard, each pili nut is opened by hand using a machete. There are machines that can do the job, but the guys with the machetes are much faster.
“Once you open the pili nut, there is a brown covering, a testa, similar to the covering on a peanut that needs to be removed. We soak them for a minimum of 8-10 hours, usually overnight to remove that coating. The nuts are then cooked low and slow for 24 hours. Finally, we package them and ship them to the United States.”
These little flavour bombs pack a huge nutritional punch too. They are naturally extremely high in fat and low in carbohydrates. The soaking and spouting process Jason uses enables your body to access the minerals and vitamins more readily. The high fat content also makes them very satisfying. Not only do I snack on them right from the bag, I like adding them to my salads as a topper. Not the raw cacao ones obviously. Those have occasionally found their way onto my chocolate avocado pudding and chocolate chia puddings.
If you want to read Jason’s complete story, check out his site www.eatpilinuts.com and be sure to order some of all the flavours. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on these.