Frequently Asked Questions > Where they come from > If they are really berries, why are they called Soap Nuts?

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The common name, admittedly causes some confusion. Although the "shells" are quite hard when dry and resemble the shell of a nut, they are not a nut at all. When the berries are ripe, they fall from the tree and are harvested, de-seeded and dried in the sun. What is left over from this process, the pulp of the fruit which is saturated in saponin is the hard "shell". I like to think of it as the saponin being like the juice. A cherry, for example, is saturated in cherry juice. A soap berry is juicy with saponin. The pulp of the soap berry is just much thinner, and the saponin hardens when it dries, causing the pulp to appear more shell-like than gummy dried fruit-like.

Last updated on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 by Katie McIlveen