Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Red, not Golden, Walnuts

California, home to fruits, nuts, and the world’s largest artichoke, lays claim to walnuts. The claim is based on the state's rank as the world’s largest producer of the golden nuts. California exports millions of pounds of shelled and in-the-shell walnuts each year, perhaps even to the forests of southwestern Asia where the trees are native.

Idaho, home to sagebrush, spuds, and the world’s largest beagle, boasts two trees that produce red walnuts. Inside normal-looking walnut shells nestle red-seed coated nutmeats that are creamier and milder than their golden-coated cousins.

When I visited the two trees late last summer, their unusual nuts were cleverly disguised as regular green walnut fruits.
Idaho’s red walnuts are descendants of a single tree in Europe, where the unusual nuts have been rediscovered and renamed many times. Recent converts rave about the nuts in online discussion boards and ask others for more information on the trees. Others respond with reminiscences and reminders on the virtues of sharing.

A researcher in Austria is an admirer of the ruddy-skinned nuts. His Flicker photostream show a range of colors, from pink to burgundy to deep violet. He has a red-seeded walnut tree in his garden and research into the genetics of the rare nuts on his bucket list.

I wrote about Idaho’s red walnut trees in the Winter issue of Edible Idaho.