Walnut is a type of a nut that is grown on the walnut tree and is known by other regional names like noix (French) and akhrot (Hindi). Known for its property to reduce cardiovascular diseases, walnuts are consumed in large quantities across the globe. The Old English word ‘wealhhnutu’ is from where the word ‘walnut’ has been coined; it literally means a foreign nut.
Walnut dishes commonly include cakes, breads, cookies, salads and pies. Some popular walnut recipes are chocolate walnut brownies, Waldorf salad, walnut fudge and banana walnut cake.
The Origin & Historical Background of Walnut
It is said walnuts were first cultivated by the Persians and after that were popularized by the Romans in different European countries, which gradually started producing them. Since then walnut is grown worldwide and used in all cuisines.
In earlier times, walnut oil was also used by the Greeks for many non- culinary purposes.
Varieties of Walnuts
Many walnut trees are found, but 3 varieties are specifically popular and enjoyed worldwide. The English walnut (Juglan regia), the black walnut (Juglan nigra) and the Butternut Walnut (Juglans cinerea) are the 3 main varieties. Out of the three, English walnut is the oldest and the most common walnut grown, it is identified by its thin shell, sweet flavor and nice golden color. The black walnut has a hard shell and dark meat within, while the butternut walnut variety holds a white meat in the shells. Both black and butternut variety of walnuts are native to the Americas.
The Culinary Uses of Walnut
Walnut is used in cookery for many things. It is widely added to baked goods like cookies, cakes, biscuits and breads. Walnuts are also commonly used in salads and as garnishes.
Walnuts are usually added directly to recipes; depending upon the dish they are chopped, minced or powdered. In powdered form they are used to coat meat pieces before frying and as stuffing in many pie and dessert recipes.
Walnut oil is also used in salads, however, due to its high perishability rate and high cost the oil is rare to find.
Popularity of Walnut in World Cuisine
Walnut is grown worldwide and thus is easily available everywhere. Due to this, most cuisines incorporate walnut in their everyday cooking. Be it in salads, as a garnish for desserts or a vital ingredient in sweets, walnuts make it to the ingredient list of every known cuisine.
Walnut Buying & Storing Tips
Walnuts are available with shell and shelled. It is advisable to always purchase them with shells since they can be preserved for a longer time, however here there is a risk of choosing the wrongs ones since the contents cannot be seen. To avoid this one may consider the shell quality. A brittle and easy to crack shell is an indication of a fresh walnut. The color of walnut shells should not be a selection criteria since the color totally depends upon which part of the farm they were planted and is not an indication of the quality of the walnuts.
Walnuts have a high fat content due to which they are prone to rancidity. It is always better to use walnuts as soon as possible since they develop a very sour taste due to spoilage. Freezing the nuts is a good way of storing them for long.
Ingredients Similar To Walnut
Walnut is a nut and almost all types of nuts like almonds, pecans, chestnut and cashew nuts can be used instead of it. However, most walnut recipes suggest pecans as a replacement due to the similar appearance and taste of the two nuts. The nutritional content of all nuts do not match so if a recipe is being prepared because of its nutritional value then one must choose a nut similar to walnut in terms of its nutritional content.
Health Benefits of Walnuts
- Like most nuts, walnuts are rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. In particular, walnuts have protein and omega 3 fatty acids in abundance, in comparison to other nuts.
- Walnuts have what is considered ‘good’ cholesterol building properties and are advised to people with cholesterol problems. They are believed to lower the bad cholesterol and help prevent any heart problems.
- Walnuts are also advised to persons with Type 2 diabetes.
Food and Drug Administration Approval for Walnuts
Benefits of walnuts have recently been recognized by The Food and Drug Administration. Walnuts are being promoted due to their property to avert heart diseases.
Other Uses of Walnuts
Walnut wood is used to make intricate furniture designs and wood work. Walnuts are used in cosmetics; walnut face scrubs are very popular amongst ladies. Walnut is also widely used in the polishing and dye industry.
• Europeans believed walnuts were instrumental to ward off witchcraft, fever and any such bad omens,. Thus always kept them in their houses.
• The Romans associated walnuts with fertility and a Roman groom would usually throw them at the guests, during the wedding, to help boost his fertility.
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