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I have a small walnut tree in my garden in France. It is about 10 years old now and this year produced about 30 to 50 nuts. I can’t be sure how many it produced because I had to share them with the local red squirrel population. I think I managed to get about 50%  of them.

Awaiting harvest.

Nearby are several other trees along the side of a little road and along a farm track so I managed to collect quite a lot of nuts and they are now shelled and ready to eat.

I decided to find out a bit about walnuts and this is some of what I discovered.

1.The scientific name is Juglans and there are several species world-wide. The main one grown in Poitou-Charentes is Juglans persica. Juglans derives from Jovis glans which literally means Jupiter’s nuts !!!

2. Walnuts probably originated in Persia/Iran and were spread to the Mediterranean by Greek traders and then moved into Northern Europe with the Romans.

3. There is evidence that in the Perigord region of France remnants of nuts from over 17,000 years ago have been found. Predating Greeks and Romans???

4. In days gone by it was an Autumn activity to shell and preserve the nuts. This was known as denoisillage and was performed by the women using a wooden mallet made from Box wood.

Cracking my nuts.

5. Walnuts contain 15.2% Protein, 65.2% Fats, 6.7% Fibre and high amounts of certain minerals, including Zinc which is said to be closely related to your sex drive.

6. Aging rats fed with a high proportion of walnuts have not only stopped aging but the process has even been reversed. (How does an old rat differ from a fairly old rat?).

7. People in Perigord, where lots of walnuts are produced and eaten, have the second lowest incidence of heart disease in the world.

8. Walnut trees produce a chemical from their roots which inhibits the growth of all other plants in the immediate vicinity. This is called allelopathy, so don’t plant one near your vegetable plot. It seems it particularly affects tomatoes

9. When  squirrels bury nuts in the Autumn they do not remember where they have buried them but they have a good sense of smell and can locate a buried nut under the ground by sniffing it out.

10. Jean-Marc Baudet produces oil from walnuts, hazelnuts and rape seed. He is located in Limalonges and will transform your nuts into oil for a small fee. 2 Kilos of nuts makes 1litre of oil at a cost of 2 euros. He will also buy large quantities of nuts from you and he sells nut oils. To find out more click here 

11. In Perigord they combine butter roquefort and walnuts and spread this on to thinly sliced local bread to make a delicious appetizer.

Bowl of Walnuts

12. Walnuts lower cholesterol levels and reduce stress.

There are lots more facts about Walnuts, many of which are on Wikipedia.

Anyway, do yourself a favour and collect them up, shell them, and eat them, let the squirrels eat acorns, or buy the oil and splash it liberally over your salads.