Nuts are a popular snack and ingredient around the world—not just because of their taste, but because of their health benefits when eaten in moderation. One of the healthiest and most versatile nuts is a large, round nut called a walnut.
What are walnuts?
Walnuts are the fruit of the walnut tree. Although walnuts are scientifically classified as a drupe rather than a true plant nut, they are known in the culinary world as tree nuts.
While walnuts are green as they grow and then ripen to a pale yellow color. Once fully ripe, they fall off the walnut tree. They are harvested from the ground and the shell is first removed, leaving a hard shell. Remove the tough shell or husk to reveal the nut meat inside. Both in-shell and shelled walnuts are available at grocery stores for cooking or eating raw.
How to shell walnuts (no nutcracker!): a step-by-step guide?
Even if you don't have a nutcracker, shelling or cracking walnuts is an easy process. To shell walnuts without a nutcracker:
1. Make sure to remove the walnut shells. If the husks are still on the fruit, peel off the husks and let the unshelled walnuts dry for two weeks. However, most in-shell walnuts sold in stores do not have shells.
2. Place a clean towel on a hard surface.
3. Place the walnuts on the towel and fold half of the towel over the walnuts. This will keep the pieces from falling apart when you break.
4. Hit the nut two or three times with a hammer. Be careful with this step - too much or too much pounding can cause the walnut meat to break into pieces that are too small for cooking.
5. Open the walnut and use a sharp pick to separate the flesh from the walnut shell.
How to use walnuts in cooking?
Walnuts can be used in the kitchen in many ways - the whole fruit (inside the walnut shell) can be pickled. Shelled walnuts can be eaten raw, roasted, or even candied. They can also be stored; walnuts have a shelf life of up to a year in the refrigerator when stored in an airtight container.
In recipes, walnuts are used as an ingredient in a variety of dishes, often adding a crunchy texture to soft or liquid foods. Here are some ways to incorporate walnuts into your cooking.
Chinese recipes. Walnuts are a popular ingredient in most Chinese dishes, but they are most often eaten with noodles and vegetables. Common walnut Chinese dishes include walnut chicken and walnut stir fry, and a popular snack is Chinese dates stuffed with walnuts.
Iranian recipes. Walnuts are popular in many Iranian dishes, often stuffed into fish or ground into dipping sauces. Two of the most common Iranian walnut recipes include a walnut-pomegranate stew called fesenjan and a walnut cracker called nan-e gurdui.
Mediterranean recipes. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating raw and unprocessed fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Walnuts are especially popular in the Mediterranean region as a healthy snack, eaten raw or roasted. They are also used on fish such as salmon or salads.
Western food recipes. Walnuts are a common ingredient in Western entrees such as chicken salad and lettuce salad, and they are also used in desserts, often added to brownies or used as a topping for ice cream.
How to roast walnuts in the oven?
1. Preheat the oven to 375℉(191℃) and line a baking sheet with parchment or foil.
2. Cut the shelled walnuts in half or quarters to promote even roasting (smaller walnuts burn more easily). Spread the walnuts in a single layer on the baking sheet.
3. Bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until browned. You can toss the walnuts after a few minutes for a more even brown, but it's not required.
How to roast shelled walnuts on the stovetop?
1. Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Don't add oil or butter to the pan - the natural fats and oils in walnuts provide all the moisture needed for cooking.
2. Cut the shelled walnuts in half or quarters to promote an even roast, although stovetop roasting does allow for more supervision so smaller pieces can be used. Pour the walnuts into the pan in a single layer.
3. Cook for 5 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently to avoid burning.
What are the health benefits of walnuts?
Walnuts are rich in healthy fats (polyunsaturated fats) and vitamins. One serving (about a quarter cup) of raw walnuts, toasted walnuts, and even walnut oil has been found to be a good source of:
Antioxidants. Walnuts contain more antioxidants than any other common nut and are especially high in vitamin E.
Omega-3 fatty acids (especially alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA). Walnuts contain high amounts of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
The above briefly describes some cooking and processing methods for walnuts. If you are planning to buy walnuts, please contact us.
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