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Walnut Varieties

Persian or English walnut varities are the most delectable

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Walnuts

© 2009 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone

Walnut Varieties

Walnut trees can grow up to 100 feet tall with trunks up to twelve feet in diameter. Of the fifteen edible species of Juglans, the Persian or English variety is the most delectable and the most widely-used. English walnuts have a thin shell which is easily cracked. The curly nutmeat halves have a sweet flavor with a touch of the bitterness and astringency of the golden to dark-brown paper edible skin.

Other varieties include black walnut, Chinese walnut, Japanese walnut, and white walnut also often called butternut. The roots of the black walnut and butternut varieties produce a substance called juglone which can be toxic to many plants and trees near the root system, but there are plants that can co-exist.

When the outer husk begins to crack and the thin divider separating the still-moist nut kernels inside becomes brittle, it's time to harvest walnuts. Commercial walnuts are hulled, washed and dried by machines. Walnuts grown in France are held to be the finest.

Black Walnuts

Black walnuts, J. nigra, are native to America. Their hard, sticky shells protect dark-skinned white nutmeats. These nuts must be cured after harvesting.

The saying "tough nut to crack" surely must come from the black walnut, as they require extreme force to get to the meat. Many find the easiest way to hull black walnuts is to spread them in a layer over the driveway and just drive over them with a car. Even once they are cracked, the meat must be painstakingly coaxed from the shell, and the oil in the shells leave an indelible brown stain on the hands. Wear rubber gloves when handling black walnuts.

The meat to nut ration is small, but the rich nutty flavor is considered superior to that of the English walnut or butternut when mixed with other ingredients in baked goods and confections. On their own, the strong flavor of black walnuts is disagreeable to most, and not recommended for snacking.

More about Walnuts and Walnut Recipes:

Walnut Selection and Storage
Walnut Varieties
Walnuts and Health
Walnut History
Walnut Lore and Legend
Walnut Recipes
Walnuts Photo © 2009 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

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The Walnut Cookbook
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