As I was watching my husband struggle to use the garlic press to crush walnuts (at my behest) the other night, a lightbulb went off. I understood why nuts – walnuts in particular – need that hard, thick, light-impermeable shell. After all, most fruits and veggies don’t need but a thin coating of soft skin – so why not nuts? Knowing that nature is a perfectionist and tends to think of the smallest details, there had to be a reason. And what are walnuts known for? – their high fatty acid content, specifically Omega-3 fatty acids, responsible for the oiliness of nut kernels. In fact, the Omega-3 content in walnuts is comparable to that of salmon. Now that hard shell is starting to make sense – imagine hanging a piece of salmon in a tree – it would turn rancid and rotten in no time, because fats and fatty acids are highly perishable and susceptible to oxidation (basically, going bad from exposure to the elements). So, the shell is there to protect the prized walnut kernels from being exposed to light, air, heat and direct moisture – all things that will lead to destruction of the oils’ beneficial properties.
In the past, I’ve bought nuts in shelled, chopped, packaged form, just like most of us do. This season my local grocery store has been flooded with walnuts in the shell, and I bought some. I can’t stop eating them!!
The taste and freshness are incomparable, and I don’t know if I can ever go back to the usual kind, that has been sitting there, in a see-through plastic package, coated in salt and going rancid in a warehouse for who knows how long before it reached the store shelves. Yes, it’s a lot more effort to get the kernels out of the walnut shell, what with all the little grooves and partitions inside, but believe me, it’s worth it. Why struggle to find a “cool, dark” place where to store your packaged nuts according to instructions on the plastic, when you can keep them inside their own perfect little nature-made “packaging” that protects them and keeps them fresh for your enjoyment?
And if you are not eating walnuts at all, I highly recommend that you start. Add them to salads or baked goods, eat them as a snack, or crush some over my beet salad. See if this list of walnuts’ health properties does not sway you:
– Omega-3 fatty acids
– Vitamin E
– high quality protein
– decrease cholesterol, inflammation and blood-clotting
– They help improve your mood – ever notice how much a walnut half looks like the human brain? Well, it’s no coincidence that walnuts can help stabilize serotonin levels in the brain, helping you to feel more positive. So, get to cracking!!
For more information, check out this article: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=99#healthbenefits