They may not be as popular as almonds or peanuts, but let’s show walnuts some respect: they’re great for your heart, your brain, and your bones; you can incorporate them into any meal; and they’ve literally been around for almost 10,000 years. The Walnut Marketing Board established National Walnut Day in the 1950s, and we’ve celebrated on May 17 ever since. Read on for all the best ways to use walnuts, because they’re so much more than just another ingredient to toss in chicken salad.
National Walnut Day Activities
Shell your own
Don’t you find that food tastes better when you’ve worked a bit for it? Buy some walnuts still in their shells, grab a nutcracker (or a hammer), and get going. Bonus: it doubles as a stress-relieving exercise!
Candied walnuts are an impressive gift that couldn’t be easier to make. In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter and sugar, and add any spices you want (we like cinnamon and ginger). Toss the walnuts in this mixture until they’re coated; then spread them out on some parchment paper to cool. Pack them into small jars, distribute among your friends, and pretend you're Martha Stewart.
Make a walnut cocktail
Nocino is an Italian liqueur made from unripe walnuts. It’s nutty, sweet, strong, and a bit spicy—in other words, it will warm you right up. The Italians drink it on its own as a digestif, but it also pairs very well with brown spirits. We think it’d be a great addition to a Manhattan.
5 Reasons We're Sort Of Nuts About Walnuts
These versatile nuts can be eaten raw or toasted, pickled or candied, added to a wide range of cereals, baked into pies, cakes, and cookies, tossed onto ice cream, used in pesto and other sauces, and processed into oils and nut butters.
More than just food
Ink still made today from walnut husks is said to have been used by Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt for writing and drawing; shells are crushed for use as landscape mulch; and the abrasive quality of ground walnut shells also makes them useful in cleaning products.
Especially abundant in the U.S. and China, walnuts are also cultivated in Iran, Turkey, Mexico, Ukraine, Chile, England, Slovenia, and Romania.
Walnuts have been used to reduce inflammation, heal wounds, and freshen breath
A walnut tree can live to be 250 years old
Why We Love National Walnut Day
Walnuts are a nutritional powerhouse
Walnuts are the only nut with high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. If you eat just a quarter cup, you’ll have more than 100% of the daily recommended amount. These omega-3s contribute to your brain function, heart health, and reduce inflammation. Walnuts are also a good source of Vitamin E, magnesium, and antioxidants. Plus they’re high in protein and fiber, so they make a great snack.
They’ve got some (ancient) history
Walnuts are the oldest known tree food—they date back to 7000 B.C.! The walnuts we eat today are known as English walnuts, but they actually originated in ancient Persia where they were considered a delicacy for the royalty. They first moved through the Asian and Middle Eastern world by trade along the Silk Road, and then further via sea trade. They eventually made it to England, where merchants would sail them to ports around the world, hence the “English” name.
Walnuts are great in all sorts of sweet and savory recipes. Eat them by themselves, or chop them up and toss them in cookies, oatmeal, salads, sauces, cakes, you name it! And calling all vegetarians/vegans: their texture makes for a great meat-substitute. Seriously, Google “walnut chorizo.”