Walnuts: Food of the Gods

They provide so many quality nutrients that the Romans called them ‘Jupiter’s glands’

Its name in Greek means seed of God. Such an appellation can already serve as a warning about the high esteem that has always been of walnuts. Legend has it that Alexander the Great introduced the walnut fruit from Persia to Greece.

Its Macedonian contemporaries called it kara because of its resemblance to the human head, and the Romans, who also declared themselves devotees of this drupe, renamed it Juglans regia, its current scientific name, which means ‘Jupiter’s glands’. It is not a random nomenclature: both the Greeks and the Romans considered it a food of the gods. Probably one of the reasons was for its peculiar shape: that woody, hard and rough shell houses four soft seeds, whose shape reminds us of the human brain.

The nuts are born protected by a woody and hard shell. More than fifteen varieties are known. The California walnut (Juglans californica) is large in size and regular in shape. The one from Castilla, made from European walnut or Juglans cinérea, is rounder, bitter and with a lower amount of fat than other varieties. For that same reason it is ideal for caramelizing. In contrast, the pecan variety has a smooth, sweet and buttery flavor and a crunchy texture. The pecan walnut is originally from the state of Texas and its merit is to create distinguished desserts such as ‘pecan pie’, the hearty and delicious North American walnut cake and corn syrup. From Australia comes the macadamia walnut, considered the finest in the world, creamy in texture and widely used in confectionery. Finally, the Brazil walnut or coquito, also known as the Pará chestnut, comes from a wild tree endemic to the Amazon. It is thin, buttery, with a delicate taste and a very high content of selenium. Four or six walnuts exceed 100% of the recommendations (55 mcg).

The collection of walnuts starts from the end of September to the end of October. But being a long-lasting dried fruit, it can be found in the market all year round.

Don’t rule out the refrigerator

The best way to appreciate walnuts in all their flavor is to buy them in the shell and open them just when you eat them. However, the laziest will choose to buy them peeled and in bulk. In this case, the best place to store them is in the fridge, in a closed container. The freezer is also valid if you are not going to consume them immediately. In this way its life will be lengthened, preventing the fatty acids from becoming stale.

One way to detect they are rancid, without having to sink your teeth, is by applying your smell: walnuts take on a smell similar to paint thinner that will put you on notice. In this case there is nothing to do, except throw them away.

The same does not happen with bagged walnuts that contain a protective atmosphere to preserve them for some time from this deterioration. Once the package is opened, it is best to put them in an airtight container. And in case it’s hot, don’t even think about it: to the refrigerator.

Eat them heartily

Like all nuts, walnuts are very energetic. They present 595 kilocalories per 100 grams, a good part of which are in the form of fats (63.28 grams), 88% of which are unsaturated fatty acids. This composition makes them a heart-healthy food: when saturated fats are substituted for unsaturated fats in the diet, it helps to keep blood cholesterol at normal levels.

In addition, they are a source of fiber (5.2 grams) and contain 3.3 grams of carbohydrates and 14 of proteins, highly valued by those who follow a vegan diet.

Walnuts provide 595 kcal per 100 grams: 63.28 are fat, 14 are proteins, 5.2 are fiber and 3.3 carbohydrates. In addition, they are a source of almost all essential minerals: iron, zinc, potassium, selenium, phosphorus and magnesium.

When it is said that walnuts are one of the healthiest foods we can bring to the table, it is not a trivial statement. They are a source of almost all the essential minerals for the body: iron (2.3 grams), zinc (2.1 grams), potassium (690 mg), selenium (19 mcg), phosphorus (304 mg) and magnesium (140 mg

With regard to vitamins, they are sources B1 (0.3 mg) and B3 (3.5 mg), two micronutrients that participate in cell metabolism.

Delicious even in brine

Most of us eat walnuts rough, either as a snack or to spice up salads. They are also part of many sweets, such as the famous vanilla ice cream with macadamia nuts. More common is to find them in elixirs such as ratafía, a Catalan sweet liqueur made from green walnuts, herbs and spices.

The imagination, however, can give more than curious recipes. The English, friends as they are of pungent flavors, even have their walnuts pickled in a brine of vinegar, sugar and spices. They lived their moment of glory a couple of centuries ago and even Charles Dickens includes them in some of his stories.