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Botanical name: Juglans regia



The walnut is indigenous to Europe and Asia, and probably also to India. Today, walnuts are grown in nearly all temperate zones of the earth. The chief producers are California and China. In Europe, the main walnut-growing countries are France, Greece and Italy.


Walnuts have become practically a year-round article today, with the greatest turnover during the Christmas season.

Appearance, taste, characteristics

Like the almonds, the walnuts belong to the drupes, or stone fruits. The walnut consists of three parts: There is a green outer shell, which either comes off by itself during the ripening process or is removed after the harvest. Beneath this is the woody, oval, light-brown nutshell. This consists of two halves held together on a commisure. Inside this is the edible seed kernel in a four-part core.

The seed kernel is irregularly shaped and covered with a yellowish to brownish seed skin. This protects the kernel from the influence of oxygen. If the nut is eaten just after being harvested this seed skin must be removed, because it is relatively thick and tastes bitter.

The walnut kernel tastes mildly nutty, somewhat tart and slightly sweet.

As with other fruits, several varieties are offered for sale, which differ in taste, shape and size.

Related to the walnut is the butternut (Juglans cinerea), native to eastern North America. While it tastes very good, it is closely attached to the shell and very difficult to remove. Other relatives found at exotic markets are the Japanese walnut (Juglans ailantifolia) and the black walnut (Juglans nigra).

The black walnut is also native to eastern North America. Three hundred years ago it came to Germany, and it is meanwhile occasionally planted here as a forest tree. In parks it is more common. Owing to its extremely hard shell, which cannot be cracked with a normal nutcracker, only squirrels get to enjoy the black walnut now and then.


Like all other nuts, walnuts contain very little water, but they are very rich in fat. This makes then high in calories. They are also rich in fibre and contain especially large amounts of vitamins B6 and E, but also vitamin B1 and magnesium.

This nut also contains polyphenols from the group of secondary plant substances.

100 g contain:

Walnut kernels
Energy (kcal)
Water (g)
Protein (g)
Fat (g)
Carbohydrates (g) (g)
Fibre (g)
Vitamin A (RE) (µg)
Vitamin E (mg)
Vitamin B1 (mg)
Niacin (mg)
Vitamin B6 (mg)
Folic acid (µg)
Vitamin C (mg)
Potassium (mg)
Sodium (mg)
Calcium (mg)
Magnesium (mg)
Iron (mg)
Saturated fatty acids
Monounsaturated fatty acids (g)
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (g)

Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

To prevent walnuts from becoming rancid, they should be stored in a cool, dry and airy place. It is even more important not to keep them next to foods that have a strong smell; walnuts quickly absorb aromas from other foods.

Fresh walnuts have only a very short shelf life. To make them less perishable they are dried after the harvest, thus losing about half of their weight.

Purchased walnuts can be kept for up to 12 months if they are properly stored. If you pick walnuts yourself, you can keep them for 1–2 months; they are not professionally dried and will not keep as long.

If you purchase already shelled walnuts, pay attention to the best-before date on the package. They retain their colour and flavour best if the dry kernels are kept cool and in water-vapour-tight packaging.

Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

The majority of dried walnuts are eaten raw, either alone as a snack or as an addition to sweet and salty dishes. Walnuts are used in muesli or to refine salads, particularly fruit salad, Waldorf salad or herring salad. There are even cheeses that contain walnut pieces.

In Italy, walnuts are used for pesto, a popular specialty sauce for pasta that is made of olive oil, herbs, garlic and nuts. Walnuts can also be used to stuff chicken and in other meat dishes.

Among the sweets that contain walnuts are ice cream, brittle, pralines, chocolates and pastries. Organic or natural food shops sell sandwich spreads that contain walnuts.

Moreover, there is cold-pressed walnut oil, with a characteristically nutty aroma, which is popular for salads.

In some regions (wine-growing areas) it is considered a specialty to eat freshly harvested walnuts, so-called green nuts, right away. For this purpose, the light-coloured, bitter-tasting skin must be removed from the walnut kernel. In France and Switzerland these green nuts are conserved in tins. In some areas they are used in the production of plum jam to enhance the aroma.


The butternut (Juglans cinerea) is a close relative of our walnut. It has a very good flavour, but it is very tightly attached to the shell. In addition, many other related species can be found at exotic markets, such as the black walnut (Juglans nigra) and the Japanese walnut (Juglans ailantifolia).





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