Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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12 Oct 2006

My Long Love Affair With the Walnut.

walnutsWalnuts will save the Earth. I’m sure of it. Such a wonderful tree, such a marvel of nature, my love affair with the walnut remains undimmed over the many years since our first flirtations 13 years ago. If I had to trace our affair back to a particular event, it would be a beautiful autumn day where I went for a walk by a canal near Bath.

wThere was a walnut tree, huge, ancient, and below it a carpet of walnuts. Pockets, hats and bags were stuffed, and our harvest enjoyed at leisure over the following weeks. I remember thinking, as I stood there, what an amazing creation, this huge, graceful, stately, food producing, sculptural feature in this beautiful landscape. The world needs walnut trees and it needs them fast.

I was reminded of my veneration of the walnut when a small bag of walnuts arrived from my aunt. When my first son was born, we planted a walnut tree in her garden. It was just a sapling when we planted it, but to her increasing alarm, it has grown and grown, and is now a very large tree. I have regularly suggested that despite its expansive form, there is the great compensation of crops of walnuts.

walnutThis suggestion, however, is often rebuffed by being told that actually she has rarely ever actually had a walnut off it, the tree keeping the local squirrel population well fed, but very few remaining long enough for her to get any. This year though, she has actually had enough nuts from it to be able to send us a bag of them. What wonderful and delicious nuts they are. Sweet, oily, rich, easy to crack. They are rich in protein and oils. They can be stored, and offer a very important food for filling the hungry gap.

This however was the first year she had got any sizeable harvest from this wonderful addition to her garden. She wondered why it might be that this year it has finally come good. The answer? A sudden increase in fertility? A fortuitous side effect of climate change? Increased pollination due to a more active bee population? No. After a good bit of asking around, it turns out that one of her neighbours has been shooting the squirrels.

Categories: Food

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Zachary Nowak
15 Oct 8:51am

Ciao Rob,
It’s Zach. Do you know of any good books that cover the growing of walnut trees? All my nut tree books are too technical. Thanks!

19 Oct 11:09pm

Hi Rob,
killer punchline! Glad to hear the walnut romance is alive and well and thought Zach might be interested in the agroforesty research trust booklet on walnut growing. Hope to see you all in Cork when the ferries are back in action 🙂 Nora

21 Oct 6:48pm

Heya Rob,

Was wondering how old your Mother’s tree is to produce a crop. Really want a walnut tree but currently renting, do you think I could start off in a big pot? Probably not but hopeful.


Mark Forskitt
31 Oct 8:19pm

Walnuts, pah! I’ve just harvested 5lbs of chesnuts from the part of my neighbours old tree that overhangs the road. Sweet chestnuts are much higher in carbohydrate, and the lowest fat content of any nut you are likely to grow in the UK. Oh and once established they are drought tolerant, indeed the best crops seem to follow dry summers. And as for the wood – walnut has its uses, but for practical uses like stakes int eh ground, or even cladding sweet chestnut is really good. It coppices well ,and at a push you can burn it.

But most important -I like the taste of chestnuts, and cant stand walnuts!!!

chaque’un a son gout. (approx)

Zachary Nowak
21 Nov 12:06pm

Thanks a lot for the book suggestions! I ended up buying all four of the Agroforestry’s book on trees!


17 Nov 4:00pm

Hi! We live in a city in Michigan and want to grow our own walnuts. Do you know which kind of walnut tree to recommend buying for the purpose of eating the nuts? We would like a hardy one that produces tasty (of course!) nuts.