Walnuts
Inside of a walnut in growth
Three-segment walnut
Walnut shell inside its green husk
Artistic depiction of two walnuts (Adriaen Coorte, 1702)

A walnut is the edible seed of any tree of the genus Juglans (family Juglandaceae), particularly the Persian or English walnut, Juglans regia. They are accessory fruit because the outer covering of the fruit is technically an involucre and thus not morphologically part of the carpel; this means it cannot be a drupe but is instead a drupe-like nut.

After full ripening, the shell is discarded, and the kernel is eaten. Nuts of the eastern black walnut (Juglans nigra) and butternuts (Juglans cinerea) are less commonly consumed.

Description

Walnuts are the round, single-seed stone fruits of the walnut tree. They ripen between September and November in the northern hemisphere. The brown, wrinkly walnut shell is enclosed in a husk.[1] Shells of walnuts available in commerce usually have two segments (but three or four-segment shells can also form). During the ripening process, the husk becomes brittle and the shell hard. The shell encloses the kernel or meat, which is usually in two halves separated by a membranous partition.[1] The seed kernels – commonly available as shelled walnuts – are enclosed in a brown seed coat which contains antioxidants. The antioxidants protect the oil-rich seed from atmospheric oxygen, preventing rancidity.[2]

Walnut trees are late to grow leaves, typically not doing so until more than halfway through the spring.

Chemistry

Walnut hulls contain diverse phytochemicals, such as polyphenols, that stain hands and can cause skin irritation. Seven phenolic compounds, including ferulic acid, vanillic acid, coumaric acid, syringic acid, myricetin, and juglone, were identified in walnut husks; juglone had concentrations of 2-4% fresh weight.[3]

Walnuts also contain the ellagitannin, pedunculagin.[4] Regiolone has been isolated with juglone, betulinic acid and sitosterol from the stem bark of J. regia.[5]

Similar species

The fruits of trees in the family Juglandaceae are often confused with drupes.[clarification needed]

Species

The three species of walnuts most commonly grown for their seeds are the Persian (or English) walnut (J. regia), originating from Iran, the black walnut (J. nigra) – native to eastern North America – and the Japanese walnut, also known as the heartnut (J. ailantifolia).[6] Other species include J. californica, the California black walnut (often used as a rootstock for commercial propagation of J. regia), J. cinerea (butternuts), and J. major, the Arizona walnut. Other sources list J. californica californica as native to southern California, and Juglans californica hindsii, or just J. hindsii, as native to northern California; in at least one case, these are given as "geographic variants" instead of subspecies (Botanica).[citation needed]

Numerous walnut cultivars have been developed commercially, which are nearly all hybrids of the English walnut.[7]

The black walnut is of strong flavor, but due to its hard shell and poor hulling characteristics, it is not commercially cultivated in orchards.[citation needed]

Walnut production – 2021
Country Production
(millions of tonnes)
 China 1.10
 United States 0.66
 Iran 0.39
 Turkey 0.33
 Mexico 0.14
World 3.50
Source: FAOSTAT of the United Nations[8]

Cultivation

In 2021, world production of walnuts (in shell) was 3.5 million tonnes, with China contributing 31% of the total (table). Other major producers (in the order of decreasing harvest) were the United States, Iran, and Turkey.[8]

History

During the Byzantine era, the walnut was also known by the name "royal nut".[9] An article on walnut tree cultivation in Spain is included in Ibn al-'Awwam's 12th-century Book on Agriculture.[10] The wal element in the name is Germanic and means foreign, especially in the sense of Latin or non-Germanic. Compare, for example, Wales, Walloons, Wallachia. The wal element is present in other Germanic-language words for the same nut, such as: German Walnuss, Dutch walnoot, Danish valnød, and Swedish valnöt.

Storage

Walnuts, like other tree nuts, must be processed and stored properly. Poor storage makes walnuts susceptible to insect and fungal mold infestations; the latter produces aflatoxin – a potent carcinogen. A batch that contains mold-infested walnuts should be entirely discarded.[2]

The ideal temperature for the extended storage of walnuts is −3 to 0 °C (27 to 32 °F) with low humidity for industrial and home storage. However, such refrigeration technologies are unavailable in developing countries where walnuts are produced in large quantities; walnuts are best stored below 25 °C (77 °F) with low humidity. Temperatures above 30 °C (86 °F) and humidity levels above 70 percent can lead to rapid and high spoilage losses. Above 75 percent humidity threshold, fungal molds that release dangerous aflatoxin can form.[2][11]

Cultivars

Uses

Culinary

Walnuts in their shells available for sale in a supermarket in the United States

Walnut meats are available in two forms: in their shells or de-shelled. Due to processing, the meats may be whole, halved, or in smaller portions. All walnuts can be eaten on their own (raw, toasted, or pickled), or as part of a mix such as muesli, or as an ingredient of a dish: e.g. walnut soup, walnut pie, walnut coffee cake, banana cake, brownie, fudge. Walnuts are often candied or pickled. Pickled walnuts that are the whole fruit can be savory or sweet depending on the preserving solution.

Walnuts may be used as an ingredient in other foodstuffs. Walnut is an important ingredient in baklava, Circassian chicken, chicken in walnut sauce, tarator (a summer soup in Bulgarian cuisine), and poultry or meat ball stew from Iranian cuisine.

Walnuts are also popular as an ice cream topping, and walnut pieces are used as a garnish on some foods.[16]

Nocino is a liqueur made from unripe green walnuts steeped in alcohol with syrup added.

Walnut oil is available commercially and is chiefly used as a food ingredient, particularly in salad dressings. It has a low smoke point, which limits its use for frying.[17][18]

Nutrition

Walnut, English
Walnut kernel, halves
Nutritional value per 100 grams
Energy2,738 kJ (654 kcal)
13.71 g
Starch0.06 g
Sugars2.61 g
Dietary fiber6.7 g
65.21 g
Saturated6.126 g
Monounsaturated8.933 g
Polyunsaturated47.174 g
9 g
38 g
15.23 g
VitaminsQuantity
%DV
Vitamin A equiv.
0%
1 μg
0%
12 μg
9 μg
Vitamin A20 IU
Thiamine (B1)
30%
0.341 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
13%
0.15 mg
Niacin (B3)
8%
1.125 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
11%
0.570 mg
Vitamin B6
41%
0.537 mg
Folate (B9)
25%
98 μg
Vitamin B12
0%
0 μg
Vitamin C
2%
1.3 mg
Vitamin E
5%
0.7 mg
Vitamin K
3%
2.7 μg
MineralsQuantity
%DV
Calcium
10%
98 mg
Iron
22%
2.91 mg
Magnesium
45%
158 mg
Manganese
163%
3.414 mg
Phosphorus
49%
346 mg
Potassium
15%
441 mg
Sodium
0%
2 mg
Zinc
33%
3.09 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Water4.07 g

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA FoodData Central

Walnuts without shells are 4% water, 15% protein, 65% fat, and 14% carbohydrates, including 7% dietary fiber. In a 100-gram reference serving, walnuts provide 2,740 kilojoules (654 kcal) and "rich" amounts (20% or more of the Daily Value or DV) of several dietary minerals, particularly manganese at 163% DV; along with significant amounts of B vitamins.[19]

While English walnuts are the most commonly consumed, their nutrient density and profile are generally similar to those of black walnuts.[20][21]

Unlike most nuts, which are high in monounsaturated fatty acids, walnut oil is composed largely of polyunsaturated fatty acids (72% of total fats), particularly alpha-linolenic acid (14%) and linoleic acid (58%), although it does contain oleic acid as 13% of total fats.[20]

Health claims

In 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provided a qualified health claim allowing products containing walnuts to state: "Supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 ounces (43 g) per day of walnuts, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet and not resulting in increased caloric intake, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease."[22] The FDA had, in 2004, refused to authorize the claim that "Diets including walnuts can reduce the risk of heart disease"[23] and had sent an FDA Warning Letter to Diamond Foods in 2010 stating there is "not sufficient evidence to identify a biologically active substance in walnuts that reduces the risk of coronary heart disease."[24] A recent systematic review assessing the effect of walnut supplementation on blood pressure (BP) found insufficient evidence to support walnut consumption as a BP-lowering strategy.[25]

As of 2021, the relationship between walnuts and cognitive health is inconclusive.[26]

Antifungal

Juice from boiled walnuts can be used as an antifungal agent. Green husks can be crushed and sprinkled into the water to poison fish.[27]

Inks and dyes

Further information: Walnut ink

Walnut husks can be used to make durable ink for writing and drawing. It is thought to have been used by artists including Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt.[28]

Walnut husk pigments are used as a brown dye for fabric[29] and were used in classical Rome and medieval Europe for dyeing hair.[30]

Woodworking

The fine, straight-grained wood of the black walnut is highly valued for furniture, wall paneling, automobile interiors, and gunstocks.[31]

Cleaning

The US Army once used ground walnut shells for abrasive blasting to clean aviation parts because of low cost and low abrasive qualities. However, an investigation of a fatal Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter crash (11 September 1982, in Mannheim, Germany) revealed that walnut shell grit had clogged an oil port, leading to the accident and the discontinuation of walnut shells as a cleaning agent.[32]

Commercially, crushed walnut shells are still used outside of aviation for low-abrasive, less-toxic cleaning and blasting applications.[33] In the oil and gas industry, deep bed filters of ground walnut shell are used for "polishing" (filtering) oily contaminates from water.[34]

Cat litter

At least two companies, LitterMaid and Naturally Fresh, make cat litter from ground walnut shells.[35][36] Advantages cited over conventional clay litter include environmental sustainability of using what would otherwise be a waste product, superior natural biodegradability, and odor control as good or better than clay litter.[37] Disadvantages include the possibility of allergic reactions among humans and cats.[38]

Folk medicine

Walnuts have been listed as one of the 38 substances used to prepare Bach flower remedies,[39] a herbal remedy promoted in folk medicine practices for its supposed effect on health. According to Cancer Research UK, "there is no scientific evidence to prove that flower remedies can control, cure or prevent any type of disease, including cancer".[40]

In culture

Large, symmetrically shaped, and sometimes intricately carved walnut shells (mainly from J. hopeiensis) are valued collectibles in China where they are rotated in hand as a plaything or as decoration. They are also an investment and status symbol, with some carvings having high monetary value if unique.[41] Pairs of walnuts are sometimes sold in their green husks for a form of gambling known as du qing pi.[42]

Gallery

References

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  3. ^ Cosmulescu, Sina Niculina; Trandafir, Ion; Achim, Gheorghe; Botu, Mihai; Baciu, Adrian; Gruia, Marius (15 June 2010). "Phenolics of Green Husk in Mature Walnut Fruits". Notulae Botanicae Horti Agrobotanici Cluj-Napoca. 38 (1): 53–56. ISSN 1842-4309. Archived from the original on 29 July 2017.
  4. ^ Cerdá, Begoña; Tomás-Barberán, Francisco A.; Espín, Juan Carlos (1 January 2005). "Metabolism of Antioxidant and Chemopreventive Ellagitannins from Strawberries, Raspberries, Walnuts, and Oak-Aged Wine in Humans: Identification of Biomarkers and Individual Variability". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 53 (2): 227–235. doi:10.1021/jf049144d. ISSN 0021-8561. PMID 15656654.
  5. ^ Talapatra, Sunil K.; Karmacharya, Bimala; De, Shambhu C.; Talapatra, Bani (January 1988). "(−)-Regiolone, an α-tetralone from Juglans regia: structure, stereochemistry and conformation". Phytochemistry. 27 (12): 3929–3932. Bibcode:1988PChem..27.3929T. doi:10.1016/0031-9422(88)83047-4.
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    The French en:Orchard Book II Chapter I Local & Regional Fruits 1948
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Further reading