What is Walnut?

By Kkchaudhary11 [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons
Walnut is the large wrinkled edible seed of deciduous trees of the genus Juglans. It consists of two halves contained within a hard shell that is enclosed in a green fruit.

There are two species of walnuts marketed for the nuts. The first one is the English Walnut also known as Persian Walnut and botanically known as Juglans regiaThe second one is the Black Walnut, botanically known as Juglans nigra.

Lets start by looking at the English (Persian) Walnut because it’s commercially produced in millions of tonnes and is the one marketed shelled or unshelled and packaged in cans or jars.

1. The English (Persian) Walnut (Juglans regia)

The English walnut is also known as Common walnut, Carpathian walnut and Madeira nut. It’s a native to Europe and Western Asia. It’s the one commercially grown in orchards and sold in millions of tonnes each year. The top producers in 2014 were China, USA, Iran, Turkey and Mexico (WIKI)

The English walnut is enclosed in a green husk (pericarp) that splits open when the fruit is ripe to release the unshelled walnut. The shell is thin, light brown and is very easy to split open. The nuts can easily be extracted in halves.

The English walnuts are sold unshelled or shelled  in halves or in pieces. The shelled nuts can be sold raw or roasted in vacuum sealed jars, cans or cellophane.

Taste of the English walnuts

The English walnut has a mild, delectable taste.Their pleasant flavour makes them ideal for snacking, as well as for use in baked goods and other recipes It’s is higher in fat than the Black walnut. Both have fair sources of iron and B6 vitamin.

2. Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)

Black walnut is a deciduous hardwood tree native to the eastern and central United States.
It’s only cultivated in the US and is marketed on a very small scale. The rest of the trees grow in the wild. Since black walnuts are not cultivated on a commercial basis they are rare and harder to find.

Why are Black Walnuts harder to find?

The Black walnut is also enclosed in a green husk (pericarp) that splits open when the fruit is ripe, to release the unshelled walnut.The shells are darker, very tough and extremely hard to crack, and contain an oil that can easily stain hands so it is recommended that one wears rubber gloves when handling these walnuts. (wiki). The shells have to be crushed under so much pressure that the nuts also break into pieces so it’s not possible to buy them in large beautiful halves.

Photo by and (c)2007 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man). Location credit to the Chanticleer Garden. [GFDL  or CC-BY-SA-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons
Black walnuts are usually sold in their shells and if you find shelled ones, they will be in chunky pieces. I don’t have a picture of one right now but If I lay my hands on one, I shall add it here for reference.

Taste of Black Walnuts

Black walnuts have a rich, nutty flavour that is stronger than that of English walnuts. Some people find the taste of black walnuts too strong for snacking. The bold, nutty flavour is good in oatmeal cookies, baked goods, fudge and ice cream. They also give a nice crunch to savoury dishes like quiche, poultry, fish, salad or yoghurt

Culinary Use of Walnuts

Whole Walnuts Walnuts are sold unshelled or shelled. Roasted or raw, salted or unalted usually in vacuum sealed containers. The unshelled nuts are in season in fall and early winter.

Walnuts can be added to trail mixes or granola. They can be used to give a crunch in parfaits, salads

They can be added to smoothies to make it more nutritiousor ground together with  chick peas to make  hummus. Walnuts can also be used instead of pine nuts to make Pesto.

Walnut oil has a pleasant flavour and is used in salads or for cooking.

The unripe fruits are pickled in vinegar

Other Uses

A yellow dye is obtained from the green husks.

How to Buy un-shelled nuts

Choose nuts with undamaged shells (no cracks, or scars or tiny wormholes)
Store raw shelled nuts at room temperature in a cold dry place 3-4 months in an airtight container.

3. White Walnut or Butternut

The Butternut or white walnut,  Juglans cinerea, is the only walnut tree native to Canada. It’s the most cold resistant of all walnut trees. it’s not of much commercial value.

4. Red Walnut

Walnut Resources 

  1. The essential guide to everything you need to know about growing walnuts (Juglans regia).
  2. Common non-native British Trees, Walnut.
  3. Juglans regia.

Whole walnuts after being removed from the fruit. They can be bought in stores.

Walnut shell (stone) cracked open to release the seed which is technically the nuts you eat.

Fresh walnut seeds (nuts) from the shell. Ready to eat….oh la la la!

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Author: Liz

I love everything food: eating, cooking, baking and travelling. I also love photography and nature.

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