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.


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.


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]


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]


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]


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.


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]




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]


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
Vitamin A equiv.
1 μg
12 μg
9 μg
Vitamin A20 IU
Thiamine (B1)
0.341 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.15 mg
Niacin (B3)
1.125 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.570 mg
Vitamin B6
0.537 mg
Folate (B9)
98 μg
Vitamin B12
0 μg
Vitamin C
1.3 mg
Vitamin E
0.7 mg
Vitamin K
2.7 μg
98 mg
2.91 mg
158 mg
3.414 mg
346 mg
441 mg
2 mg
3.09 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Water4.07 g

Percentages estimated using US recommendations for adults,[19] except for potassium, which is estimated based on expert recommendation from the National Academies.[20]

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.[21]

While English walnuts are the most commonly consumed, their nutrient density and profile are generally similar to those of black walnuts.[22][23]

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.[22]

Health effects

Health claims

In 2004, 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."[24] At the same time, the agency refused to authorize the claim that "Diets including walnuts can reduce the risk of heart disease"[25] and in 2010, it sent a warning letter to Diamond Foods stating there is "not sufficient evidence to identify a biologically active substance in walnuts that reduces the risk of coronary heart disease."[26]

In 2011, a scientific panel for the European Food Safety Authority recommended a health claim that "Walnuts contribute to the improvement of endothelium-dependent vasodilation" at a daily intake of 30 grams (1.1 oz); it also found that a cause and effect relationship did not exist between consuming walnuts and reduction of blood LDL-cholesterol levels.[27] The recommended health claim was later authorized by the European Commission.[28]


A 2020 systematic review assessing the effect of walnut supplementation on blood pressure (BP) found insufficient evidence to support walnut consumption as a BP-lowering strategy.[29]

As of 2021, the relationship between walnut consumption and cognitive health is inconclusive.[30]

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.[31]

Walnut husk pigments are used as a brown dye for fabric[32] and were used in classical Rome and medieval Europe for dyeing hair.[33]


The fine, straight-grained wood of the black walnut is highly valued for furniture, wall paneling, automobile interiors, and gunstocks.[34]


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.[35]

Commercially, crushed walnut shells are still used outside of aviation for low-abrasive, less-toxic cleaning and blasting applications.[36] In the oil and gas industry, deep bed filters of ground walnut shell are used for "polishing" (filtering) oily contaminates from water.[37]

Cat litter

At least two companies, LitterMaid and Naturally Fresh, make cat litter from ground walnut shells.[38][39] 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.[40] Disadvantages include the possibility of allergic reactions among humans and cats.[41]

Folk medicine

Walnuts have been listed as one of the 38 substances used to prepare Bach flower remedies,[42] 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".[43]

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.[44] Pairs of walnuts are sometimes sold in their green husks for a form of gambling known as du qing pi.[45]



  1. ^ a b Grant, Amy (19 April 2021). "Walnut Tree Harvesting: When Are Walnuts Ready To Pick". Gardening Know How. Retrieved 4 December 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "Walnut; Agriculture – Transport Information Service". Association for German Insurance. 2010. Archived from the original on 14 February 2015.
  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.
  6. ^ Ernest Small (2009). Top 100 Food Plants. NRC Research Press. p. 545. ISBN 9780660198583.
  7. ^ "Commodity Profile: English Walnuts" (PDF). AgMRC, University of California. 2006. Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 March 2012.
  8. ^ a b "Walnut (in shell) production in 2021, Crops/Regions/World list/Production Quantity (pick lists)". UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Corporate Statistical Database (FAOSTAT). 2023. Retrieved 9 July 2023.
  9. ^ Geoponika - Agricultural Pursuits. Vol. 2. Translated by Owen, Thomas. London: University of Oxford. 1806.
  10. ^ Ibn al-ʻAwwām, Yaḥyá ibn Muḥammad (1864). Le livre de l'agriculture d'Ibn-al-Awam (kitab-al-felahah) (in French). Translated by Clement-Mullet, Jean Jacques. Paris: A. Franck. pp. 271–276 (ch. 7 - Article 24). OCLC 780050566.
  11. ^ "Food, Nutrition & Agriculture – Prevention of aflatoxin". FAO, United Nations. 1998. Archived from the original on 7 March 2011.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Walnut Cultivar Table". Fruit and Nut Information Center, Department of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis. 2018. Archived from the original on 8 February 2018. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  13. ^ fr:Le Verger Francais tomme II Chapitre I Fruits Locaux & Regionaux 1948
    The French en:Orchard Book II Chapter I Local & Regional Fruits 1948
  14. ^ US active USPP21718P2, Gale McGranahan & Charles Leslie, "Walnut tree named 'Ivanhoe' (patent)", published 2011-02-22, issued 2011-02-22, assigned to THE REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 
  15. ^ a b Le Verger Francais, Tome 1 Catalogue Descriptif des Fruits Adoptes 1947
  16. ^ Forsberg, B.; Clark-Warner, M.S.R.D.C.D.E.; Beale, L. (2004). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Terrific Diabetic Meals. DK Publishing. p. 98. ISBN 978-1-61564-486-5. Archived from the original on 31 March 2018. Retrieved 27 May 2017.
  17. ^ "Walnut oil recipes". BBC. Archived from the original on 17 February 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  18. ^ Turner, Lisa. "Oil Change". Better Nutrition. Archived from the original on 6 July 2014. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
  19. ^ United States Food and Drug Administration (2024). "Daily Value on the Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels". Retrieved 28 March 2024.
  20. ^ National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Health and Medicine Division; Food and Nutrition Board; Committee to Review the Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium (2019). Oria, Maria; Harrison, Meghan; Stallings, Virginia A. (eds.). Dietary Reference Intakes for Sodium and Potassium. The National Academies Collection: Reports funded by National Institutes of Health. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US). ISBN 978-0-309-48834-1. PMID 30844154.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  21. ^ U.S. Department of Agriculture (28 October 2018). "FoodData Central: Nuts, walnuts, English, halves, raw". fdc.nal.usda.gov. Retrieved 27 June 2023.
  22. ^ a b "Nutrition facts: Nuts, walnuts, English dried per 100 g". Archived from the original on 5 July 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  23. ^ "Nutrition facts: Nuts, walnuts, black, dried per 100 g". Archived from the original on 5 July 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
  24. ^ "Labeling & Nutrition - Qualified Health Claims: Letter of Enforcement Discretion - Walnuts and Coronary Heart Disease (Docket No 02P-0292)". wayback.archive-it.org. Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling and Dietary Supplements. 9 March 2004. Retrieved 11 March 2024.
  25. ^ Tarantino, Laura M. (9 March 2004). "Qualified Health Claims: Letter of Enforcement Discretion – Walnuts and Coronary Heart Disease (Docket No 02P-0292)". US Food and Drug Administration, Labeling and Nutrition. Archived from the original on 7 May 2017. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  26. ^ Wagner, Roberta (22 February 2010). "FDA Warning Letter to Diamond Food, Inc". US Food and Drug Administration, Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations. Archived from the original on 12 January 2017. Retrieved 1 November 2016. the evidence supporting a relationship between walnuts and coronary heart disease is related to the omega-3 fatty acid content of walnuts. There is not sufficient evidence to identify a biologically active substance in walnuts that reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Therefore, the above statement is an unauthorized health claim
  27. ^ EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (8 April 2011). "Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to walnuts and maintenance of normal blood LDL-cholesterol concentrations (ID1156, 1158) and improvement of endothelium-dependent vasodilation (ID1155, 1157) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006". European Food Safety Authority. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2011.2074. Retrieved 11 March 2024.
  28. ^ European Commission (2012). "Food and Feed Information Portal Database | FIP | Health Claim 1155". ec.europa.eu. Retrieved 12 March 2024.
  29. ^ Li, Jiayang; Jiang, Bo; O. Santos, Heitor; Santos, Dinamene; Singh, Ambrish; Wang, Lei (November 2020). "Effects of walnut intake on blood pressure: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials". Phytotherapy Research. 34 (11): 2921–2931. doi:10.1002/ptr.6740. ISSN 0951-418X. PMID 32510725. S2CID 219539797.
  30. ^ Cahoon, Danielle; Shertukde, Shruti P.; Avendano, Esther E.; Tanprasertsuk, Jirayu; Scott, Tammy M.; Johnson, Elizabeth J.; Chung, Mei; Nirmala, Nanguneri (1 January 2021). "Walnut intake, cognitive outcomes and risk factors: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Annals of Medicine. 53 (1). Informa UK Limited: 972–998. doi:10.1080/07853890.2021.1925955. ISSN 0785-3890. PMC 8211141. PMID 34132152.
  31. ^ "Black Walnut Ink Workshop". Guild of Natural Science Illustrators. October 2002. Archived from the original on 9 October 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  32. ^ "The Colors of Invention – How to Dye Fibers Naturally". Smithsonian Museum. 13–16 November 1997. Archived from the original on 21 October 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  33. ^ Sherrow, Victoria (2006). Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 267, 355. ISBN 978-0-313-33145-9. Retrieved 3 July 2014. walnut.
  34. ^ Williams, Robert D. (1980). "Black walnut". US Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 29 August 2021.
  35. ^ "In Re Air Crash Disaster at Mannheim Germany on 9/11/82. Ursula J. Schoenborn, As Executrix of the Estate of Leonedward Schoenborn, Deceased, v. the Boeing Company. Appeal of the Boeing Company. United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit. 769 F.2d 115". Justia. 1985. Archived from the original on 17 May 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  36. ^ "OSHA fact sheet addresses abrasive blasting hazards". Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  37. ^ Cheremisinoff, Nicholas P. (2017). Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) : contaminants of concern. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley. p. 194. ISBN 978-1-119-36353-8.
  38. ^ Parks, Shoshi (24 October 2022). "The best natural cat litter we tested with our pets". Insider.
  39. ^ n.a. (26 May 2023). "What is the best walnut cat litter". Winston-Salem Journal.
  40. ^ n.a. (26 May 2023). "What are the pros of walnut cat litter?". Buffalo News.
  41. ^ n.a. (26 May 2023). "What are the cons of walnut cat litter?". SCNow.
  42. ^ Vohra, D. S. (1 June 2004). Bach Flower Remedies: A Comprehensive Study. B. Jain Publishers. p. 3. ISBN 978-81-7021-271-3. Archived from the original on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  43. ^ "Flower remedies". Cancer Research UK. 26 January 2015. Archived from the original on 11 September 2013. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
  44. ^ Subler, Jason; Lee, Jane Lanhee (28 August 2012). "Status-conscious investors shell out on great walnuts of China". Reuters. Archived from the original on 14 November 2015.
  45. ^ Hsieh, I-Yi (13 May 2016). "Asian Anthropology Nuts: Beijing folk art connoisseurship in the age of marketization". Asian Anthropology. doi:10.1080/1683478X.2016.1164354. S2CID 148515450.

Further reading