Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Bates County, University of Missouri Extension
It’s that time of year when walnuts start dropping off their trees. Picking up these walnuts to sell can be a great money maker, but don’t forget that you should keep some for yourself to eat. Black walnuts are a tasty, healthy addition to your diet.
The nuts aren’t quite ready to eat when they come off the tree. The green (or brown) outer hull of the walnut must be removed to reveal the shell of the nut. This can be a messy job so wear heavy rubber gloves. Some people just put them on the driveway and run over them until the nut is revealed. Once the outer hull has been removed, be sure to wash the nut with the garden hose. Leave the clean, unshelled nut in a cool, well-ventilated area for about two weeks. Then crack the nuts with a hammer or strong nutcracker to get the nutmeat out. They are ready when the nut breaks crisply.
It can be a bit of a challenge to pick the nuts from the shell, but they have a long storage life so that makes it worth it. Black walnuts will stay fresh for up to one year when stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and up to two years when stored in an airtight container in the freezer.
The nutrients this nut provides also makes the hard work worthwhile. If you look at the nutrition information from a bag of Diamond shelled black walnuts, you’ll find that 1/4 cup provides 190 calories, 18 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein. They also contain iron, vitamin E, vitamin B6, zinc, copper, phosphorus, magnesium and molybdenum.
There is a lot of fat in just a quarter cup of walnuts, but it’s actually good fat. There is only one gram of saturated fat and the other 17 grams are the more healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
Black walnuts also have omega-3 fatty acids which have been attributed to heart health. Two large studies have concluded that people who ate one ounce (about 1/4 cup) of walnuts five times per week had a lower risk of heart attack and heart disease.
Black walnuts have their own unique flavor and can be used in a variety of ways. They can be eaten alone as a snack, added to oatmeal, muffins, yogurt or ice cream, or tossed in your favorite wild rice or pasta dish. Hammons Products Company of Stockton, MO lists black walnut recipes on their website at www.black-walnuts.com.