Dating back to 7000 BC, the walnut originated in the Mediterranean region and Central Asia. With similarly mild temperatures, it's no wonder walnut trees thrive in California, where ninety-nine percent of walnuts sold in the U.S. grow in the Central Valley over 300,000 acres.
Pliny the Elder, the Roman naturalist and philosopher, claimed the Greeks originally received walnuts from Persia as they traveled the Silk Road and were reserved for royalty. Walnuts were used for dying wool and as a breath freshener. Depictions of walnuts have been found on wall paintings of ancient Pompeii and Herculaneum.
The walnut's medicinal virtues are well-documented by the Greeks and Romans and are another of nature's super foods. Rich in omega-3 fats, antioxidants, melatonin, folate, and vitamin E, a diet which includes walnuts may combat risks of heart disease and diabetes, lower bad cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and improve brain health.
These heart-healthy gems can be eaten by the handful and can easily replace other nuts in recipes from hummus to pesto. Green walnuts are used to make the popular Italian liqueur, nocino, which can be enjoyed on its own or drizzled over ice cream. A favorite among bakers, walnuts are faithfully paired with chocolate, fruit, and cheese. Or perhaps try a fine chop and encrust walnuts over a lovely fish filet or poultry. Discover our favorite ways to use these glorious nuts in the kitchen this month.