Walnuts - The Royal Nut
Walnuts are the oldest food trees we know of. The Romans called them "Jupiter's royal acorn." They were traded along the Silk Road, eventually traded along the sea routes to other nations. The walnut was first cultivated in California by the Franciscan fathers in the late 1700's and planted next to the missions. They flourished in this Mediterranean climate and by 1870 modern walnut production began.
It takes a long time to get a walnut from tree to market. It takes the tree 5 to 7 years to produce walnuts. Harvesting begins in late August when the green hulls start to split and the in-shell walnuts are removed. Once ready for harvest, the trees are shaken with a machine specially made for this purpose and the fallen walnuts are gathered.
You'll find both in-shell and shelled walnuts at your farmer's market. Some are even flavored! When you get them home, keep them in the refrigerator or freezer to keep them fresh. An air-tight container will keep the walnuts from absorbing other flavors in the 'frig.
Walnuts are considered some of the healthy fats that should be incorporated into your daily diet. They are filled with omega-3 fatty acids. Although high in calories, the walnut is a fantastic source of protein, fiber, magnesium, and phosphorous. By adding just a small handful of fresh California walnuts to your diet every day, you'll get the nutrition your body needs in a tasty package! Here are some ways to get an ounce or two of walnuts into your meals.
- Toss a handful on a pear, goat cheese, and spinach salad.
- Make pesto with walnuts instead of pine nuts for a delicious earthy taste.
- Make walnut butter to spread on crostini or use as a dip for veggies.
- Grind in the food processor to give salmon or other fish a crunchy crust.
- Sprinkle walnut pieces into your yogurt or cereal in the morning for a burst of energy.
- Add to stuffing mix for the holidays.
- Use in baking for a crispy healthy crunch.
- Stuff dates with walnuts for a quick, energy boosting snack.
- Toss with a tiny bit of melted butter and sprinke with brown sugar, roast at 350ºF for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Make your own trail mix with raisins and other dried fruits, and a bit of salt.