Walnuts are believed to have its origins in Persia and are one of the most popular nuts in the world. Used since ancient times, the versatile walnut is grown throughout the world. Its name is derived from the Old English word wealh, meaning "strange" or "foreign."
There are approximately 15 edible varieties of walnuts, most of which come from the Persian or English variety. This flavorful and popular variety originated in the Middle East and does not grow in England. They were called "English" because it was the English merchants who transported the nuts to the colonies. Today, this variety is produced mostly in California. English walnuts have a thin shell that is easily cracked, and the curly nutmeat halves have a sweet flavor with a touch of the bitterness and astringency of the golden to dark-brown edible skin (see example). Other varieties include the black or American walnut, Chinese walnut, Japanese walnut, and the butternut or white walnut. Black walnuts were a Native American staple, with a sweet flavor and a hard, sticky shell that protects dark-skinned white nutmeats.
Walnuts are available year-round. Over 98% of the total U.S. commercial crop and two-thirds of world's commercial walnuts are produced in California. Walnuts are harvested in California beginning in August.
Preparation, uses, and tips
Shelled walnuts can be used straight out of the package. Chopped walnuts are used extensively in baking, especially in foods, such as brownies and cookies, where they are added at the last stage of mixing. Walnuts are also a good addition to savory dishes, such as grains, stuffing, salads, and stir-fries.