Walnuts: Versatility At Its Best
To the Romans, the walnut symbolizes Juno, the goddess of women and marriage, wife of Jupiter. This belief led to the unique wedding practice of throwing walnuts at the bride and groom as a symbol of fertility. Roman women often carried walnuts to promote fertility.
In France, the bride and groom dance around a walnut tree so that the bride will produce abundant milk for their future children. It is also a French tradition to hang a bag of walnuts in the kitchen to represent abundance. To the French, walnuts also represent longevity and they likewise believe that walnuts possess aphrodisiac powers. Hence, French men usually try to sneak a leaf into the shoe of the woman they admired.
These are just few of folklore beliefs different people have of the infamous walnut. But today, walnuts are being utilized by creative cooks and chefs all around the world as ingredients to a multitude of dishes, soups and desserts.
Culinary Uses of Walnuts
In many countries, walnuts are revered because of its versatility. In the Middle East, there is a well-known delicacy Baklava which is a rich dessert made of alternate layers of buttered filo dough and ground walnuts. A final topping of sweet spiced syrup is poured over the top and allowed to soak in for several hours before the baklava is cut into diamond shapes and served. In Italy, walnuts are sometimes added to the pine nuts in the preparation of pesto, a thick basil and olive oil sauce served over pasta. The French enjoy their Walnut Soup and relish sauces made of walnuts, garlic and oil, while the Persians favor a dish called Fesenjen made of poultry or meat, walnuts, and pomegranate juice. Persians makes a paste of ground walnuts and used it to thicken soups and stews. Europeans since Medieval times and up to the present, utilize walnuts, along with almonds, to create a rich and nutritious drink with milk which is a common household staple.
The walnuts can be made into desserts by preserving them in a spiced honey mixture. Green walnuts which are not yet fully mature walnuts have superb-tasting sourness that make them ideal ingredient for pickles, jams and marmalades. The walnut oil is being used as a salad dressing or drizzle delicately over steamed vegetables.
Nutritional Benefits of Walnuts
Walnuts are rich in protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. Walnuts can be considered a super food because they contain a full complement of vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and folic acid. They also contain a wealth of minerals, such as iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
Walnuts contain Vitamin E--alpha, beta, delta and gamma-tocopherol, making it exceptionally high in antioxidants.
Omega 3 fatty acids are also found in walnuts which are essential to a healthy body. Only three tablespoons of walnuts will provide our daily requirement of these Omega 3 fatty acids. Eat daily while convalescing may relieve fatigue and generally strengthen the body.
Fresh walnuts and walnut oil can encourage circulation, and because they are rich in potassium, can keep the heart healthy.
Varieties and Parts of Walnuts
There are three well-known varieties of walnut -- the Persian or English Walnut, the Black Walnut, and Butternut.
Persian or English Walnut tree grows to a height of 40 to 60 feet high and has a lifespan of about 60 years or more. The black walnut can grow to a height of 150 feet, with the nuts bearing a more rounded shape. Though the tree is grown mainly for lumber, there is a minor industry in harvesting the nuts because of their distinctive, rich, and oily flavor that is valued for baking, candymaking, and preparing black walnut ice cream. The black walnut tree is known to be a centenarian, living for 100 years or longer. The butternut tree averages about 30 to 50 feet in height and bears an oval or egg-shaped nut. Considered the hardiest of the walnut trees, its lifespan varies from 50 to 75 years. In some varieties of the Butternut, the bruised leaves and the husks are aromatic.
The walnut consists of three distinct parts -- the kernel, shell and husk.
The edible portion, known as the kernel or fruit of the nut, is actually the seed of the walnut tree. It has two lobes. The inner part of the lobe is ivory colored and is covered by a thin brown skin that is firmly attached.
The shell, called the endocarp, is a very hard material made up of two distinct halves firmly sealed together. The shell is light brown in color and has an appearance reminiscent of the convolutions of the human brain. An inedible, thin, cellulose-like membrane separates the two lobes of the walnut inside the shell.
The husk, called the pericarp, covers the shell with a soft, fleshy, green skin that protects the walnut. All walnut trees are deciduous and grow well in temperate zones if sheltered from extreme cold and strong wind. They thrive best in deep, fertile soil free of alkali and should be planted 60 to 70 feet apart. In the United States, California's Sacramento Valley is the center of walnut production, producing two-thirds of the world's supply of walnuts. Other countries that grow commercial walnuts include Turkey, China, Russia, Greece, Italy and France.
Therapeutic Uses of Walnuts
The walnut, the bark, the roots, and the leaves can be used as astringent, laxative, purgative to induce vomiting, styptic to stop bleeding, vermifuge to expel worms or parasites, and hepatic to tone the liver. The walnut can also induce sweating, cure diarrhea, soothe sore gums and skin diseases, cure herpes, and relieve inflamed tonsils.
Eating walnuts regularly can prevent weight gain, calm hysteria, eliminate morning sickness, and to strengthen the body. The walnut hulls can be boiled and used to treat head and body lice, herpes, intestinal parasites and worms, skin diseases, and liver ailments. The leaves can be decocted to cure boils, eczema, hives, ulcers, and sores. Walnut oil can treat colic, dandruff, dry hair, gangrene, and open wounds, while the green rind of the walnut can be used to treat ringworm. You can likewise apply walnut bark tincture, in a little carrier oil, to swellings and skin problems, in order to encourage healing. Hence, the walnut has been termed 'vegetable arsenic,' on account of its curative effect in eczema and other skin diseases. Walnut bark can be added to the bath to ease the pain of rheumatism, and sore and aching muscles and joints.
Fresh walnuts can help to soothe colic and dispel gas in the abdomen. Eat walnuts for heartburn and diarrhea. Walnuts are likewise considered aphrodisiac and mild laxative. The nuts are soothing and a natural digestive. Walnut oil, added to salads and vegetables, may help to ease the discomfort of irritable bowel syndrome and act as a mild laxative.