A favorite food for thousands of years
May 17, 2022
It was in 1949 when the walnut got its own “National Day.” While I am certain that a large portion of my readers are thinking “National Walnut Day? Really?” Upon research I arrived at the conclusion that walnuts deserve such an honor. Of course, those who decreed the day might have been a teeny bit self serving. From thereisadayforthat.com we learn:
“National Walnut Day was created to promote the consumption of walnuts and the first National Walnut Day was proclaimed by the Walnut Marketing Board in June 1949.
On March 3rd 1958, a Senate Resolution was introduced by William F Knowland. The Resolution was signed by President Dwight D Eisenhower on the first National Walnut Day which was on May 17th 1958.”
Obviously the US Senate thought it was important enough, right?
Until yesterday I had not given the walnut much thought. Sure, I’ve eaten walnuts my entire life. I like walnuts especially when sprinkled on an ice cream sundae. They are delicious in a variety of other foods also. Like fudge. And walnut bread or banana nut muffins. Candied walnuts are superb. And who can forget what happens when you add them to apples and celery in a Waldorf salad?
It turns out walnuts have been cultivated and eaten for thousands of years and have been enjoyed since at least 7000 B.C. according to thereisadayforthat.com
The Infallible Wikipedia does not let us down and shares the following:
“During the Byzantine era, the walnut was also known by the name ‘royal nut’. An article on walnut tree cultivation in Spain is included in Ibn al-‘Awwam’s 12th-century Book on Agriculture. The walnut was originally known as the Welsh nut, i.e. it came through France and/or Italy to Germanic speakers (German Walnuss, Dutch okkernoot or walnoot, Danish valnød, Swedish valnöt). In Polish orzechy włoskie translates to ‘Italian nuts’ (włoskie being the adjectival form of Włochy).”
The most popular walnut to eat is known as the English walnut despite its origination in Persia (Iran). The black walnut of eastern North America is also popular, but for a different reason. The wood of the tree is highly valued for its fine, straight grained properties. Unfortunately, the black walnut – like the hickory nut – is very difficult to crack.
Probably the best thing I’ve learned about walnuts is that I’ve been storing them all wrong. So very wrong. Walnuts, once shelled, are susceptible to going rancid and becoming moldy. Therefore they are best kept in the fridge.
My research included doing an internet search of the words ‘walnut + recipe’ – which garnered 339,000,000 – yes million – results. I found one recipe I hope to make this week which sounds delicious: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/unbelievable-walnut-crusted-chicken/
Now on to a fun game which, for my family, involves walnuts. Sometimes those who visit my house will comment on the walnut (or several) which sit unobtrusively on the top of a clock my grandmother made back in the early 1960’s – or others which are seen in other spots.
Inevitably the question will be ‘why do you have a walnut there?’
It’s actually a nod to the game ‘Huckle Buckle Beanstalk’ which the Infallible Wikipedia describes as thus:
“The seekers must cover their eyes and ears or leave the designated game area while the hider hides a small, pre-selected object. When the hider says to come and find it, or after the seekers have counted to a specific number, usually sixty or one-hundred, the seekers come out and attempt to be the first to find the object. When a seeker has the object in hand, he can alert the other players of his success by yelling ‘Huckle Buckle Beanstalk!’ (snip)
A variation of the game has the person who finds the object, continue by pretending to look for the object and then call out ‘Huckle Buckle Bean Stalk’ to draw the other seekers attention away from the objects location. As the other seekers find the object, they perform the same deception until all the seekers have found the object. The winners take pride in how quickly they find the object and how much time passes between them and the next player who calls out ‘Huckle Buckle Bean Stalk’.”
I was introduced to the game by my grandmother at her cabin on Highway 12 near Rimrock Lake. As a child, my siblings, cousins, and I would play the game as described in the variation, honing our observation skills and – yes – earning the right to hide the walnut for the next round. A walnut was particularly well suited for hiding at the cabin which had honey colored pine board walls and wood ceilings interspersed with logs. The walnut blended very, very well.
When the cabin was sold in 2020, the Huckle Buckle Beanstalk walnut which lived there was one of the things I brought to my own house. The other walnuts I have were collected off the ground in Yakima last fall during a ‘dog’ walk with my sister and her hubby.
So, in honor of National Walnut day, be sure to eat a few walnuts or engage in a good old fashioned game of Huckle Buckle Beanstalk.
A few links:
https://youtu.be/s1JV7rIcJcs (Although this is about Hickory Nuts, it’s hilarious! And they do mention black walnuts which are equally difficult to crack)