From seed to plate: the story of a walnut

July 9, 2019 6:12 am Published by Leave your thoughts

We’re following the ‘stories’ of some of our best-selling products this month – watching them grow and be harvested, checking out what makes them special, and thinking about what we do with them once we’ve got them on our plates! Today, we’re looking at walnuts – a really interesting nut, and one that we can grow easily in this country, too.

Walnuts - a fairytale nut?

You’ll find walnuts in the autumn in the UK, in hidden pockets of woodland and older, established gardens. The walnuts that fall from those trees will be ‘wet’ – that is, they haven’t been dried. They’ll look just the same, but inside, they’ll be much softer and creamier in texture. The coating (it’s not quite a skin) is slightly bitter, but this can be peeled off, leaving a nut that’s really quite sweet and, as you might expect from a wet nut, a bit juicy. If you come across any later in the year, be sure to give them a try, perhaps in a salad or a tart.

If you’re not going down to the woods any time soon, however, you’ll need dried walnuts. And for these, it’s Moldova, rather than the UK, that’s cornered the market, especially for the organic variety. Let’s take a look at how these wonderful nuts are grown!

Once upon a time, in Moldova…

Moldova is a hilly country in Eastern Europe, bordered all round by Romania and Ukraine. It’s rich in walnuts, but not in much else – the nuts have even been called the ‘gold reserve’ of the country.

It’s a country peculiarly well-suited to nut-growing, with lots of well-established orchards. It enjoys mild winters and sunny summers, with only occasional periods of drought. The soil is rich and organic nut-growing is popular: it means that sheep can live around the trees, acting as natural pest-killers and fertilisers.

Walnuts begin from wet nuts, with the outer coating lightly ‘scarified’ to break it up. The inner green seed needs to be planted about an inch and a half deep and, with plenty of moisture, will germinate in about a month.

The tree then grows steadily – and it grows high, to 50 or 60 feet.  But it’s very specific in its requirements: walnut trees like a cold snap, they won’t even think about giving nuts until they’re around ten years old, and they prefer well-drained, but not sandy soil.

Harvest is a messy business. You can’t mechanically harvest walnuts – instead, you have to wait for them to fall off the tree naturally, making it all rather unpredictable. The nuts must be removed from the husks as soon as they drop, before the oils seep through (or the sheep get them). Then the nuts are dried and shelled, sold to wholesalers and exported to places like Naturally Good Food!

The King of Nuts

We’re very proud of the walnuts we stock. They’re probably, we feel, the King of Nuts! Ancient and wrinkled in appearance, they’re actually beautifully soft to eat, with a youthful freshness in taste. (And unless you get a rogue nut, there shouldn’t be any bitterness either.)

Most importantly, walnuts are extremely good for us. They’re a great source of protein (particularly useful in a low-meat or no-meat diet), full of fibre and a great source of energy. They’re high in antioxidants and a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids, including linoleic acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and arachidonic acids.

Walnuts in bowl

Walnuts are rich in the B-complex group of vitamins (including vitamin B6 and folates) and vitamin E, and a good supplier of manganese, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, phosphorus and magnesium. They also contain the antioxidants that are known to have benefits in combating cancer, aging, inflammation and neurological diseases.

Eating walnuts regularly has been shown to help lower total cholesterol and to raise levels of good cholesterol (HDL). Research suggests that food rich in the fats found in walnuts favours a healthy blood lipid profile and helps prevent coronary heart disease.

All our walnuts

We sell organic walnuts, from Moldova, in halves and quarters (the latter are cheaper). Walnuts also form part of our bags of mixed nuts. For all of these products, we offer full bulk boxes or bags, 1kg packs, 500g and 250g bags. We’ve got non-organic walnuts too, as well as walnut oil (a particularly rich choice), walnut butter from Carley’s and walnut vegan pate.

Click here to see all our walnut products.

What to do with walnuts?

You can nibble the nuts just as they are, of course, for a great healthy snack. You can also add them to a range of sweet and savoury recipes. Here are some of our favourites:

Making walnut pesto

Happily ever after!

Walnuts are a bit of a fairytale nut! Throughout the ancient tales and legends – with their roots in deepest, darkest, Moldovian Europe – walnuts feature, splitting open in the narratives to reveal beautiful gowns for princesses, or to make carriages for elves, or to cradle tiny Thumbelina fairies. In the stories, they’re recognised as something beautiful and precious. And in real life, they’re equally precious – full of wonderful taste and life-enhancing goodness!

Naturally Good Reads v2

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This post was written by Yzanne

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