Walnuts

October 10, 2011

Last night, we sat around the kitchen table chatting, laughing and cracking walnuts from our tree. Such a pleasant way to pass an evening! The walnut tree at La Cressonnière (it’s the treehouse tree) has been over-the-top generous with its crop of walnuts. We’ve gathered basket after basket with no end in sight.

The kids pick them up right off the grass.


In April, our friend Stephanie gifted us a bottle of walnut oil and it’s delicious. I wonder if we can take our walnut harvest and have some oil pressed… I’ve never done anything like that. Have you?

In August I shared a picture of the green fruit growing on the walnut tree. This is the first time I’ve lived with a walnut tree in my backyard, so I didn’t know how it worked. But the green “fruit” is actually a husk.

The green husks turn brown, shrivel up and crack open. Inside is the walnut shell.

A few walnuts, still in their casings, remain on the tree. But mostly, the walnuts-in-their-shells fall to the ground where they can be harvested easily.

I think we’ll be cracking walnuts through the winter! Are you a walnut fan? Have you ever had a walnut tree or other nut tree? Do you have any favorite methods for cracking the shells?

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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Juan October 10, 2011 at 9:08 am

I’ve never heard of walnut oil before. It looks pretty interesting though, I’ll have to check it out.

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2 TN October 10, 2011 at 10:10 am

when we were in Dordogne this summer we rent a gite on a walnut farm. there was a museum nearby all about walnuts and products made out of walnuts. we did buy some walnut oil but haven’t tried it yet. what do you do with it? make a salad dressing? i dont think i would cook with it as i’d like to see what it actually tastes like. I’m not a huge fan of the nut itself on it’s own. but love it in cakes and cookies ;-)

TN
http://www.etsy.com/shop/tnave

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3 bridgetstraub.com October 10, 2011 at 10:16 am

yum, chocolate chip cookies with fresh walnuts would be delicious!

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4 molly October 10, 2011 at 10:36 am

These pictures and descriptions *almost* make me wish I wasn’t allergic! ;)

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5 Nicole K October 10, 2011 at 10:38 am

I love using walnut oil to dress vegetables, esp green beans and broccoli. Also great for salad dressings.

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6 teresa October 10, 2011 at 10:40 am

We own and operate a walnut processing plant….my favorite way to crack them is through the cracking line at our plant =) other than that a hammer works great.
We love to heat a pan on the stove add the walnuts and a little sugar {no butter or oil}…heat and stir until the sugar melts and has caramelized…..don’t let it burn. Great tossed on salads and oatmeal.

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7 Aliesha October 10, 2011 at 11:49 am

One of my worst childhood memories (worst at the time…most laughable now) was the horror of finding BLACK WALNUTS in the delicious cookies my grandma had baked. My grandpa’s sister had a big black walnut tree in her yard and would spend all year de-husking and cracking them open. When she died we found her cellar still full of black walnut shells! And they tasted horrible. I love regular walnuts, but these are much different–and by different, I mean disgusting.

Half the time a piece of shell would make it into the cookie and practically crack your teeth! My grandparents were (are still) waster’s of nothing, so as long as my aunt was providing the black walnuts, they were going to be used in cookies. I think that if I ate one now, it would bring back a wonderful sense of nostalgia though (along with inevitable disappointment that another batch of cookies was “ruined).

I have seen black walnuts for sale for ludicrously expensive prices, and I always think “Who would buy those????” I wonder if the store bought variety taste any better than those picked directly out of the yard and into my chocolate chip cookies?

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8 Ann October 10, 2011 at 12:06 pm

I’m going to call you Squirrel Nutkin. I’ve never pressed anything to make oil. That sounds so interesting though. I bet it would be delicious. I’m always finding the black walnuts right behind my tires in the morning. We have very smart squirrels.

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9 Amy Jo October 10, 2011 at 12:44 pm

I use walnut or filbert (hazelnut) oil in my everyday salad dressing (nut oil + aged sherry vinegar + whole grain mustard [just a smidge] + raw honey [to taste] + a pinch of sea salt. Nothing beats it. I also swap out 1/4 or 1/3rd of the oil I use in my everyday bread recipe with a nut oil. Be sure to keep it in the fridge, because nut oils turn rancid quickly.

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10 TN October 11, 2011 at 1:12 am

Thanks for the tips! I will try it in our next bread machine batch…i usually use Vegetable Oil (i.e. in France – Sunflower Seed Oil). Maybe it will make a richer tasting bread can’t wait!

We make our own dressing as well a French Vinaigrette is similar – small amount of Dijon Mustard mixed with Balsamic Vinegar (or any other you choose), salt and pepper then you slowly add olive oil to your desired consistency. Add more of the ingredients as you like or even water to make it lighter!

Next time I will try it with our Walnut Oil!

Thanks

TN
http://www.etsy.com/shop/tnave

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11 All Unwound October 10, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Thanks for the photos, I’ve never lived with a walnut tree! They look so so different covered in the green husk…like a spotted lime. Now I wish I had walnuts in the pantry.

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12 Julie Warner October 10, 2011 at 12:54 pm

We use to spend hours cracking big sacks of walnuts while we watched TV in the evening. They were delicious and I’m afraid often didn’t make it far once they were out of the shell. I hadn’t thought of that memory in years. Thank you.

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13 The Woman Formerly Known as Beautiful October 10, 2011 at 12:55 pm

So here is the problem with walnuts as I see it. Sixteen tiny little nuts are 6 weight watchers points so if you eat 32 that 12 points and I’m only supposed to eat 29 points a day which means the walnuts may have just taken the place of my Opus One (ok Bogle) cabernet. Being over 40 can be very trying.

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14 Zoe - SlowMama October 10, 2011 at 2:15 pm

I adore walnuts but developed a sensitivity to them about five years ago. Walnut oil is wonderful on delicate salads using ingredients like apples, pears, cheese, watercress, endive, etc. (But since my lip blows up, I don’t tend to use it anymore either, sadly.) I’ve never taken nuts in for pressing but I bet it can be done. Let us know if it happens as I’d be interested in the process!

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15 Melissa October 10, 2011 at 2:26 pm

walnuts ate so good for you! brain food is what we call them in our house.

enjoy!

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16 JanMama October 10, 2011 at 3:27 pm

The easiest way to crack walnuts is to spread them out on the garage floor and whack at them with a hammer. The best way is to give everyone a good nut cracker and sit around the table. To crack them, apply pressure end-to-end across the longest dimension. I have many happy memories of our family cracking up with my late husband. We’re all a little nuts!

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17 nicole @ deliajude October 10, 2011 at 3:58 pm

i remember from my time in romania how wonderful fresh walnuts tasted. enjoy the bounty.

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18 Marianne October 10, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Lovely photos!

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19 Lissa October 10, 2011 at 5:00 pm

I wanna a walnut tree!!! Loved your description of sitting with your family around the walnut bowl.

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20 L.Steed October 10, 2011 at 5:10 pm

One year my husband and I lived in a basement apartment in Provo that had a walnut tree in the backyard. That year my husband and I gathered all the walnuts, cracked them, candied them, packaged them up in a pretty way and gave them to family members for Christmas presents. They were so tasty! Everyone loved them. And everyone was sad when they did not get them again the next year since we had moved to a new apartment by the next Christmas.

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21 LP October 10, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Perfect timing! We have a few walnut trees in our backyard. We’ve lived here for two years now and have never harvested a crop. However, a few days ago my husband suggested we pick some. I thought they had to dry and/or cure. Am I right? I guess we can just crack one open and see. Thanks for sharing. I love the idea of candy-ing them and to the Formerly Beautiful Lady (ah, c’mon, sure you still are)–yes high in cals and high in cholesterol but damn delicious!

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22 Lisa S October 10, 2011 at 7:23 pm

I love walnuts. The subdivision where my parents house was built, was amongst a walnut grove. Every house on the street had a walnut tree in the front and one in the back. Slowly over the years the trees on the block would get sick and die. There are none left.

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23 Avimom October 10, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Must be an English walnut tree. We have a black walnut tree and the nuts fall off still in their husks. Harvesting is almost impossible…the husks are nearly impenetrable and the black oil stains every thing it touches. But somehow the squirrels still get to eat them….I’m not as smart as a squirrel, I guess.

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24 Linnea October 10, 2011 at 7:57 pm

I just posted about this on my blog – I love walnuts! So delicious. Unfortunately, where we live, there’s so much wind that the walnuts fall before the husks can shrivel up and fall away. We’re left with black/brown stains on most everything – including line-dried laundry – so frustrating! The tree is so close to our house that we often hear a nut or two fall during the day, which can sound like an intruder. Scary in the middle of the country! I think I would have a different opinion of walnuts if the tree was farther from the house.

On another note, I’ve heard that people drive over the walnuts to crack off the husks and break the shells…

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25 Joy October 10, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Never knew . . . Delicious in blueberry yogurt with strawberries.

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26 mom in mendon October 10, 2011 at 8:34 pm

Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house in the San Fernando Valley was built in a walnut grove, like Lisa’s. We actually had eleven walnut trees. One of them held the big tree house fort, almost all were good for climbing, and they dropped a ton of crunchy leaves in the fall. As kids, the walnuts with husks made good missiles, but we could get in trouble for throwing them at each other; we might “put someone’s eye out.” When I encounter one now, the aroma of the leaves gives me instant nostalgia. : )

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27 Danielle Diehl October 10, 2011 at 9:55 pm

We have a walnut tree in our front yard, but only the green falls to the ground. So we mainly find ourselves cleaning the yard out, with no walnuts to harvest :( My son got his feet dyed dark brown from them, though. Crazy–we almost took him to the ER until it dawned on us why his feet were so dark.

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28 Mya Maternity October 10, 2011 at 9:59 pm

I love walnuts. When we were young my dad used to bring huge baskets of walnuts and we would all sit outside and crack, eat and talk. Very good.

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29 Hannah @ Sparrow + Spark! October 10, 2011 at 11:44 pm

I’ve never made/ pressed any oil but I have had walnut oil and it’s delicious! It’s fantastic drizzled on a soup or on some warm crusty bread. Yum!

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30 Emily Ballard October 11, 2011 at 3:12 am

One year when we were kids, we made Christmas ornaments out of walnuts. They are still my favorite ornaments on my parents’ tree. Ours were more simple than this, but I just googled walnut ornaments and found this:

http://smallnotebook.org/2009/11/06/walnut-ornaments/

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31 justaub October 13, 2011 at 12:43 pm

So fun Emily!
I got hooked on making sleeping mouse ornaments out of walnut halves one year. It still makes me smile when I stop by a relative’s house during the holidays and they have one of my ‘one of a kind’ ornaments.

Gabrielle,
During a work potluck, someone brought in a beautiful basket made from walnut shell cross sections—not sure how you could cut them? Dremel?

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32 Starr October 11, 2011 at 4:33 am

My dad used to tell of a friend who would burn the shells in a wood burning stove instead to lighting a log. I’ve wanted to try that. If you can will you report how it goes?

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33 trish October 11, 2011 at 4:47 am

I made this pasta dish last night . All store cupboard ingredients and delicious.LINGUINE WITH WALNUTS AND ANCHOVIES

Time: 20 minutes

Salt

1/2 pound linguine

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 large cloves garlic, lightly smashed and peeled

1/2 cup shelled walnuts, coarsely chopped (pieces of about 1/4 inch or a little less)

Red pepper flakes to taste

4 whole salted anchovies, rinsed and filleted, or 8 oil-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed.

1. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Start the sauce in the next step, and start cooking the linguine when the water boils.

2. Combine the garlic and oil in a deep 10-inch skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the garlic, pressing it into the oil occasionally to release its flavor. When it is just beginning to color on one side, add the nuts and the pepper flakes. Remove the garlic when it colors on the other side; cook the sauce another minute or so.

3. Add the anchovies, and increase the heat to medium, mashing them into the oil as they cook. As soon as they dissolve, almost immediately, add 1/2 cup of the pasta’s cooking water to the pan. Remove the sauce from the heat until the pasta is cooked.

4. When the pasta is still a little undercooked — about 2 minutes less time than usual — drain it, then turn it into the pan with the sauce. Cook the linguine in the sauce, stirring and tossing constantly, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the linguine are tender. Serve immediately.

Yield: 2 or 3 servings.

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34 Jan @ Family Bites October 11, 2011 at 7:03 am

I love this post. It really is the simple things that make life so great, isn’t it?

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35 Sara October 11, 2011 at 7:37 am

Wow; I love walnuts. Having a tree would be amazing. Yum. Please update us if you figure out how to make walnut oil; I love that, too. :)

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36 Christa The BabbyMama October 11, 2011 at 9:14 am

I really do learn something new every day! I always assumed they would be on the tree looking already like walnuts, not that they came out of some pod. But makes sense, I guess.

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37 katharine October 11, 2011 at 9:30 am

on NY streets they used to sell roasted walnuts and they were divine. Loved the smell.

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38 katharine October 11, 2011 at 9:31 am

whoops, realized that was chestnuts!

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39 Monica October 11, 2011 at 10:00 am

oh I LOVE walnuts. They are a great snack, and I have this really yummy banana-bread with chocolate ships and walnuts recipe. I would love to have a walnut tree in my backyard.

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40 bdaiss October 11, 2011 at 10:01 am

Not a huge walnut fan, more pecans. And neither grow this far north. Bummer. So I’ll live vicariously through you!

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41 Mary October 11, 2011 at 10:59 am

Love walnuts, and nuts in general. My dad had lots of walnut trees, so it was very common for us to sit around the living room and crack walnuts together. He kept a bowl of nutcrackers next to his recliner. My mom had a pecan tree, and she did the same thing! She had a bowl of nutcrackers in the living room, and a large container for pecans. We’d gradually crack nuts whenever we happened to be in there. Once again, you’ve brought back memories! Now I’m really wishing I had a nut tree…

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42 invitation consultants October 11, 2011 at 12:53 pm

what a great idea! i’m sure there are so many recipes you could work them into :)

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43 Dee at Home October 11, 2011 at 6:15 pm

We live in what’s called ‘the orchard’ because it used to be a working pecan orchard.

Now it’s a neighborhood and the homeowners can still enjoy the harvest each year. We take them to be cracked and clean, and enjoy them all year.

dee :)

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44 Sherri October 12, 2011 at 9:46 am

I have memories of cracking walnuts with my dad on Sat or Sun afternoons as a kid – watching football or something probably :-). He passed away 5 years ago, and I just love these little memories.

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45 Becky October 12, 2011 at 9:52 am

We had a small walnut orchard when I was a kid, and my parents used to send us out with burlap sacks to pick up walnuts every year. At the time, it seemed like the worst chore ever. Now it seems kind of idyllic. :)
I don’t know how to press them at home, but they do freeze really well so you can always store them until you figure it out.
I love them lightly toasted in a salad or in oatmeal choclate chip cookies. Also, beets, walnuts, a little flat-leaf parsley, balsamic, olive oil and s-n-p makes an excellent salad.

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46 Alea October 12, 2011 at 3:22 pm

My extended family has an annual nut-cracking party – usually in mid-November. We set up on a covered dining-room table and go to it. We make a HUGE mess and try to steal each other’s coveted nuts. We all leave with plenty to do our Christmas baking or give for gifts, or freeze and use throughout the year.

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47 Ellen October 25, 2011 at 9:01 am

We have eight walnut trees along the back yard and walnuts by the hundreds…the tree limbs and brush along with the walnuts is quite a mess…We would like to give them to someone but have no idea where to start….neighbors hate the walnuts falling in their yard…..(we didn’t check to see what kind of trees were on the property when we bought)! Hate to throw them away!!!! What to do?

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48 Yulia Welk November 10, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Ellen, I have an idea! Is that possible to ship them? I live in wisconsin with no walnut trees growing here… And I love walnuts! I would pay the shipping-:) we would crack them with the kids and vacuum package them for storage… what do you think?

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49 Trendy Tummy Maternity October 27, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Fabulous read! My dad introduced walnuts to me as a child … I remember eating them the most around Christmas time and to this day I still can’t get enough… I am in love with pretty much ALL nuts!

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