Walnuts are delicious as a snack, but can also be used in dishes. In salads, chocolates, ice cream, cakes and puddings they can be a delicious addition. Besides organic walnuts from India, the major regions are South America, the United States and Europe.
In botany, the walnut is considered a stone fruit, not a nut, unlike the acorn and the hazelnut. On the other hand, the walnut is, generally speaking, the archetypal nut. It is the fruit of the walnut tree (Juglans regia), which grows up to 30 meters high. Around the nut, which resembles a pair of brains, is a hard shell.
Walnut trees are among the oldest we know. Their history goes back to 7,000 BC. From their homeland Persia they ended up in Central Asia, China and Greece later on via the Romans to Europe. The walnut has always played an important role in mythology, folk customs and witchcraft. In Greek mythology for instance, the walnut was a symbol of wisdom. Among the Greeks and Romans, it was dedicated to Zeus/Jupiter, god of light, heaven and weather. The fruits were gods’ food and were therefore called ‘jovis shine’ (nuts of Jupiter). Eating walnuts strengthened feelings of love. Because of its soft core that hides behind the hard shell, the walnut was a symbol of the essence that hides behind its outer appearance.
The English walnut, with which everyone is familiar today, comes from India and regions around the Caspian Sea and is named after the English traders who trade it all over the world. Another variety, the black walnut, is native to North America, in the Appalachian Mountains and in parts of the Mississippi. Just eating only 28 grams of walnuts a day (about seven shelled walnuts) is enough to take advantage of their beneficial properties.
In modern times, the state of California is the world’s largest supplier of walnuts. It is currently responsible for no less than three-quarters of world trade.
Walnuts are widely grown in countries with a temperate climate. Warm summers and relatively cold to mild winters are ideal climates. The walnut harvest takes place from September to November. One can pick them, ‘club’ them from the tree or pick them with a harvester.
Walnuts are not eaten fresh from the tree. After harvesting, the fruits are dried for a number of weeks in a well-ventilated room or by drying them for some time at the heating or oven, for example, in the case of small batches. The nuts can also be dried with a dye burner, which has to be repeated for a few days because the fresh nuts still shed moisture in the beginning. The protective yellow seed coat, which tastes bitter, dries and releases.
If properly dried, the nuts can be stored for up to six months in a tightly closed box or storage container in the refrigerator. If they start to taste a little dirty, it means that the fats, which contain the nuts, have oxidized and produced toxins. They are no longer suitable for consumption.
Walnuts can be consumed in different ways. It can be mixed with the yoghurt or with a salad, but it can also be eaten loose. That nuts in general are very healthy is well known to most people and the walnut is certainly no exception. In fact, the walnut is often considered the healthiest nut of all nuts, which is why it is also called a superfood.
Walnuts from Chile are seen as the cream of the crop. Its crunchy structure, slightly sweet and creamy taste, light color and elegant shape make this 100% pure, hand-cracked Chilean nut immensely popular with nut lovers. Do you prefer to crack your own nuts? Then you can put your nutcracker to work on the Californian walnut, characterized by a lighter color than hulled nuts and having a subtle, bitter aftertaste, which makes them ideal for use in dishes.
It is the types of fats in walnuts that make them special when it comes to cardiovascular health. They contain many polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are healthier than saturated fats. Moreover, walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid, which have anti-inflammatory effects that keep the blood vessels healthy, in addition to beneficial effects on blood lipids. Nuts differ from each other. Many nuts (such as almonds and cashew nuts) are rich in monounsaturated fats, along with polyunsaturated fats. These are healthier types of fat than saturated and trans fats, but the specific combination of fats and polyunsaturated fatty acids in walnuts can be particularly good for cardiovascular health.
Walnuts are typically sold as a snack item or for use as an ingredient in candies, cereals, and baked goods. Roughly 90 percent of walnuts are sold as shelled. Roughly 40 percent of U.S. walnut production is utilized domestically, with an additional 25 percent kept for storage, and the remainder destined for the export market.
The U.S. is the world’s largest producer and shipper of tree nuts like almonds, walnuts and pecans. More than half of the crop is typically exported, so the $9.5 billion industry hinges on international trade. That’s being undercut even as global appetite grows for the healthy snacks. For almonds, America’s biggest nut crop, export prices are down about 25% from a year ago, according to estimates from Rabobank International. Other varieties have seen similar declines. They could currently get below the cost of production.