Monkey nuts were one of my favourite snacks as a child but walnuts only ever made an appearance at Christmas in the bowl of mixed nuts on the table. I remember that they were the easiest nut to crack! But what a mess they made, tiny bits of shell flying all over the sparkling white tablecloth. Actually, walnuts aren't nuts, they're drupes. Drupes are fleshy fruits where the fruit surrounds a shell with a seed inside but unlike other drupes like cherries and peaches for example, we eat the seed of the walnut fruit instead of the flesh itself.
So what makes walnuts so special and so important, especially for a vegetarian or vegan diet? Primarily, they're a hugely significant source of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids essential for optimum health, lowering cholesterol levels, reducing inflammation and improving blood circulation. And have you ever thought that a walnut looks like a brain? Interestingly, the omega 3 fatty acids contained in walnuts are imperative for brain health and the nervous system.
Walnuts are also a fantastic source of manganese, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, Vitamin E and B-complex vitamins and they're packed full of antioxidants including some very rare phytonutrients. This may explain why research has discovered that walnuts contain unique cancer prevention properties. I talked a little about walnuts and they're importance as part of a anti-prostate cancer diet in my Waldorf Salad recipe post.
Other interesting facts about walnuts include :
- They are considered to be the oldest tree food.
- There are two type of walnut, the Black Walnut which is native to North America and the English (or Persian) Walnut.
- They originated in Ancient Persia.
- The majority of walnuts eaten are "English" walnuts, so named because they were originally shipped around the world by English merchants.
- Walnut trees can grow to a height of 150 feet.
- Walnuts are an essential part of The Mediterranean Diet.
- Unshelled walnuts will remain fresh for several months stored in a cool, dry place.
- Walnut oil was sometimes used by painters (notably Leonardo Da Vinci) in their pigments.
Walnuts can so easily be added to your meals to boost their nutritional profile and improve your well-being. Walnuts appear in several of my recipes including :
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