The Walnut

Everything You Wanted To Know About The Walnut

What Is The Walnut?

The walnut is a type of nut from a tree in the Juglans family. The nuts we see in the supermarket are almost universally English walnuts from the Juglans regia tree which originated in Persia. 

The black walnut, which is native to North America, comes from the juglans nigra tree and is not readily commercially available.

Health Benefits

Walnuts are packed with nutrients. They are an excellent source of protein and essential fatty acids such as Omega-3.

The kernels are rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals such as Thiamine, Folate, Manganese, as many more.

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Husks

Walnuts grow on juglans trees in green husks, also known as a hull. The husks form after the walnut’s flowers are pollinated. Depending on the species, the husks form either laterally or terminally on the shoots of a tree branch. 

During autumn (September and October in the Northern Hemisphere, March and April and in the Southern Hemisphere) the husks split open and reveal the brown shell, which then falls to the ground and is ready to be harvested.

December 2018 Update
Walnut Husks in Summer
Walnut Husk
Walnut Husks in Autumn

Shells

As the walnut ripens, the husk becomes more brittle at the same time the encased shells are hardening. The shell also contains a seal that protects the kernel from atmospheric oxygen. 

Some varieties like the Chandler contain an extremely strong seal, whereas other varieties can have a seal that is weaker. Black walnut shells will stain the hands when removing the kernel.

Kernels

The kernel is the seed of the juglans tree and is the only part of the fruit that is eaten.

The kernels are enclosed in a brown seed coat which includes antioxidants to stop the fat-rich kernel from going rancid.

The kernel resembles a butterfly when removed from the shell.

Walnut Kernel

Walnut Varieties

English walnuts and black walnuts are the two principal varieties of commercially-grown walnut trees.

English Walnuts
English Walnuts

The two most common walnuts that are grown for their fruit are the English and black walnuts. Nevertheless, the black walnut is mostly grown commercially for timber, while the English walnut is grown for food. Review all about the differences between the two in our article English Walnuts vs Black Walnuts – What’s The Difference?

Among English walnuts, there are more than 50 commercially available varieties or cultivars that are grown in commercial orchards worldwide. Our favorite, however, is the delicious Chandler variety. The Chandler walnut has an attractive light amber color, a shell with a strong seal and an easy to remove kernel. It is the most popular cultivar among both growers and consumers.

Black Walnut
Black Walnuts

History of the Walnut

Walnuts were thought to have originated in Persia and later spread throughout Central Asia, Greece, and later to Europe by way of English traders. English walnuts were introduced by the Franciscans in the 1700s to California and then from California into Argentina and the rest of South America. Learn more about the history of walnuts.

Walnuts became known as the “Persian Nut” after Alexander the Great introduced them to Greece from Persia and then as the “English Nut” after English traders started arriving at ports all over Europe with nuts to trade. More recently in North America, California growers have undertaken rebranding effort to try and install the name “California Walnut” with consumers. These names all refer to the nut from the juglans regia tree. Persian nut, English Nut, or California Walnut — it is all the same.