Fresh Walnuts in shell

fresh walnuts

I was reading this book on foraging last week when I learnt that United States is the most nut endowed country in the world. Upon reading that, I realized, my life so far has gone by without having sighted a single nut-tree or a fresh nut. However, living in Houston has come to be a boon in certain ways. Over the years, we have come to know this city to be a melting pot of cultures owing to its bustling oil and gas industry. As a result, this place is dotted with food joints representing a variety of cuisines and specialty grocery stores from around the world, Mediterranean being one of them.

Each visit to a Middle eastern or Persian specialty food store is a discovery trip for me. And, that is where I would meet fresh walnuts for the first time. During one such shopping extravaganzas recently, I was curious when the lady with her head covered in a black veil standing behind me in the billing line was clutching a box of walnuts in shell. Very naively, I asked her what she planned to do with them. Her answer was plain and simple. “We just love to crack it open and eat with the kids”.

“Wow! That sounds interesting. I would love to share that experience with my little girl”, I thought and promptly returned home with a box myself.

I mean, where does this generation get to experience “such luxuries” when nuts are always cleaned, shelled and sold in sealed plastic bags. Do they even know where these nuts came from? What the tree looks like or how the leaves are? I would love for my little girl to know the source and history behind the food she eats. I would love for her to stay connected to nature through her food. Besides, as busy adults we ourselves often forget to enjoy the little pleasures of life. The simple child like joy that comes from trying to unravel something hidden inside a shell is unparalleled.

Fresh walnuts, as we discovered, are so different from their widely available dried shelled halves. If you have ever eaten freshly harvested peanuts cracked right out of their shell, raw, juicy and smelling of earth, you will know what I am trying to convey about the charm of fresh walnuts.

Catch hold of a good friend, your curious little one or your spouse on a chatty evening before you embark on this. You’ll need a good conversation to distract you from prying the nut out of the steely chambers guarding it. Nature never ceases to amaze us in her mysteriously clever ways. I always wondered why walnuts are sold as halves and not whole. As we cracked the nuts open pounding them with the pestle, tucked inside an inescapable mortar, we learnt that it is just not possible to pull out a whole walnut out of its shell without breaking it in half. Cracking was the easy part.

walnut hearts

To crack open a shelled walnut:

(when you don’t have a nutcracker)

Lay the walnut in a mortar, on its side on the mid line that runs through. Pound on its center along the line, a couple of firm shots at a time to put just enough pressure to crack it and not break it into pieces. Watch out for the shards flying around.
Use a small dessert fork or nut cracker pin to pry open the nuts from the shell.

Look out for rotten nuts or even worms sometimes, before popping them in your mouth.

I preserved the walnut-shells, may be for a craft or use as a prop later. They were too pretty to throw away.

If you are lucky to have a walnut tree or any nut-tree in your backyard or farm or anywhere, tell me a thing or two about your memories or experiences…

You are blessed and I’d love to hear your story!

Treat yourself to more :

   Just Homemade Recipe Index

20 thoughts on “Fresh Walnuts in shell

  1. djdfr says:

    I very much appreciate our walnut tree. It was given to us by our former landlord whose brother saved it from a vacant lot in Paris which was going to be developed.
    It has low branches which enable me to climb it.
    How many nuts it produces depends on the year. Its leaves give off a wonderful aroma. It is majestic in our courtyard.


  2. Radhika Vasanth says:

    I remember cracking walnuts eons ago, probably when my grandfather brought it from Delhi or from the walnut tree in our neighbor’s garden.

    As Joyti said, I wouldn’t blame the children. It is we as parents feel overwhelmed with all the luxuries and the ease of using readily available food that we often forget the necessity to conserve the food culture. I can sit with you over a coffee and chat about it tirelessly.
    I thank myself that I decided to blog. But for it I wouldn’t have realized these facts and never had an opportunity to be at your blog today to read a thought provoking post.

  3. vanecktharien says:

    We have 2 walnut trees in our garden here in Belgium! The squirrels have the most benefit out of the trees – they strip them bare over two or three trees. WE have now given up and “dedicated” the trees to nature, birds and squirrels to enjoy!

  4. Joyti says:

    When I was small (in the bay area, California) we had a neighbor that went to an orchard once a year and gathered boxes of walnuts. He used to give us a few boxfuls. I never knew pre-shelled nuts until I grew up. I think this is in part because my parents tried to eat as naturally and wholesomely as possible (before it was hip and trendy and people called themselves “foodies” – I hate that term!) — they found the last living milkman in the bay area so we had farm-fresh milk delivered to our door, we went to the farmer’s market before it was fashionable, and grew our own vegetables in summer. We ate in season, fresh produce and my mom cooked 3 – 4 dishes after working 10 hour days. I was shocked when in kindergarten, the other students did not know these things – or that meat came from living animals!
    Its not the fault of “this” generation of children – its their parents’. Parents need to impart this knowledge to their children. I’m glad you will with your little girl 😀

  5. shruti says:

    “I mean, where does this generation get to experience “such luxuries” when nuts are always cleaned, shelled and sold in sealed plastic bags.”
    Radhika, this really got me thinking. These things that were of second nature to us, but for the kids of this generation, we need to explicitly give them an opportunity to experience it.

  6. chefconnie says:

    Such beautiful pictures and a great post. We had walnut trees when I was growing up in Northern California. I loved to crack nuts under the tree after school. My mom always made this amazing black walnut ice cream with fresh cream from our cows…I grew up in heaven on earth and am well aware of this.

  7. Live Love Be Green says:

    Fresh shelled nuts have always been one of the treats of the Holiday season for me. I remember as a very young child cracking endless amounts of nuts just to verify that there really was a different nut inside each type of shell. My kids learned how to crack nuts really early on with a nutcracker (metal vice-like hand tool). They have always loved this task even though they couldn’t possibly eat the amount of nuts they opened. Great way to share the love of real food with your child.

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