They may not be as popular as almonds or peanuts, but let’s give walnuts their due 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 ten thousand years. The Walnut Marketing Board established National Walnut Day in the 1950s, and it’s been celebrated on May 17 ever since. Read on for all the best ways to celebrate, because they’re so much more than just another ingredient to toss in chicken salad.
Why We Love National Walnut Day
A. 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.
B. 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.
C. They’re versatile
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.”
How to Celebrate National Walnut Day
1. 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 go to town. Bonus: it doubles as a stress-relieving exercise!
2. Gift ‘em
Candied walnuts are an impressive gift that couldn’t be easier to make. Just melt butter and sugar, plus any spices you want, in a pan, toss in the walnuts until they’re coated, and spread them out on some parchment paper to cool. Pack them into small jars, distribute among your friends, and feel like Martha Stewart.
3. 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…