11 January 2016

In a Nutshell: Nut Farms of California

I am a New Yorker so what I’m about to say may be a little shocking. California is an amazing place, particularly for nut farms. Nut acreage. Nuts like cashews, pistachios and walnuts.

I came across a red walnut on my last trip out there that I can’t forget. It was creamier than a black walnut, more flavorful, ambrosia-ish. It piqued my curiosity—as all nature seems to do, so I did a little research.

It turns out the walnut has a name and you can call him Robert. Robert Livermore. The hybrid nut was developed at University of California, Davis, and named after a walnut supporter. The Fruit and Nut Research Center has the family tree, if you’re interested in following this precocious gem down its wonderful path. The educational center at UC, Davis, has also created an entire video series—“Budding, Grafting, and Planting Walnut Trees”— of how to pamper a walnut tree from bareroot forward. I’m not sure if you can get the bareroot tree Robert Livermore. But if you can, let me know where.

A few other facts you should know about walnuts (if you’re a geek about plant knowledge):
* More than 99% of the walnuts in U.S. are grown in California’s Central Valley
* 4,600 or so family farms grow walnuts in California
* Harvesting begins in late August and carries on until early October (typically)
* Mechanical shakers vigorously shake each tree and thousands of walnuts fall to the ground
* The Romans of long ago called walnuts Juglans regia, or Jupiter’s royal acorn
* Early history indicates that walnuts came from ancient Persia, where they were reserved for royalty
* And most importantly, a walnut, although beautiful, would never make a good pendant. There are some odd looking shapes you should never wear on your finger or around your neck.