We had the pleasure of meeting celebrities, chefs and local walnut growers. Each in attendance had their reasons for being there. Some were Registered Dietitians, some were print media writers, one is head of a nationally known chef’s test kitchen, a cookbook author and there were those writers that publish on the internet.
One commonality to all of us was our desire to learn more about walnuts. How they’re grown, harvested, and distributed. We also wanted to know more about their health benefits, and their use in meals.
The Walnut Association did not disappoint. On every turn there were speakers, growers, chefs and enthusiasts willing to share the California walnut story. The information I will write about this wonderful experience cannot be reduced to a single post. I am a farm journalist. I write about the food we eat, the farmers who grow it and the way it is grown. I would be remiss if I left anything out about the best two days I spent in Sacramento. The food we ate was wonderful. The knowledge shared was beneficial. The farmers we met were gracious, kind, and generous. The women I spent those two days with were the best group of women. Friendships were made that just may last lifetimes.
First a little bit about walnuts. The walnut most of us purchase in the states is referred to as the English Walnut. It has exotic roots, and over 30 varieties of walnuts are now produced in the US. California the largest producers of walnuts in the world. In fact, California walnuts account for 99% of US walnuts and three-fourths of the world walnuts. They are harvested once a year in October. The trees are planted from seed and are 4-5 years old before they produce a marketable crop. Most trees are expected to bear fruit, in commercial production, for 30 years. The California Walnut Commission reports that in 2010, the California walnut crop is expected to produce 510,000 tons of walnuts, which is 17% more than 2009 and more than double the crop from 2000.
Walnuts are appreciated for their health benefits. They are packed with healthy nutrients. A handful of wlanuts 11-12 halves or an ounce, can provide you with 2.5 grams of ALA, the plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acid. That same ounce has 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber and 10% of your daily needs of 10% of your daily value of magnesium and phosphorus. The anti-oxidant levels of an ounce of walnuts are second only to blackberries. If you are interested, the California Walnut Commission provides a pdf of their Nutrient Chart. It is packed with all the health information you need to make walnuts a great choice for you and your family.
Join me as we explore the world of California Walnuts this week. I’ll introduce you to some farmers, show you a couple of recipes and tell you about a fabulous restaurant that made an entire meal for us based around the walnut harvest!