We struggled to find foraged walnuts for this trial as there are only Japanese walnuts on our property and those the pigs can have. But having processed walnuts many times in the past, we have noticed there is a vast difference in the size and quality of nuts from various trees. The larger nuts are course easier to process, but we have found that sometimes the smaller nuts can be very tasty. Finding a nut which you like the taste of would be a good idea as some are sweeter than others and some can be bitter. Interestingly I have seen talk that the longer the outer husk stays on the shell the more bitter the nut will be, but we have not tested this theory yet. Usually, walnuts are dried before eating, this drying time will vary depending on the moisture around, so a warm dry spot out of the sun is best and dry until the nuts are no longer rubbery and have more of a crunch. Once dried you should be able to store them for at least a year in their shells in a cool dry place. Just make sure it is rodent proof…
If you live in a damp environment, have issues with rodents or just want to try a tasty method, they can be ‘activated’. This is the process of soaking nuts in salted water to remove excess tannins, phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. It activates enzymes within the nut which neutralize the enzyme inhibitors. Many traditional cultures understood the need to ‘treat’ some foods before consuming. Nuts and seeds were often soaked or partially sprouted prior to eating. The reason for this is that the enzyme inhibitors that they contain can put a strain on your digestive system if large amounts of raw nuts and seeds are consumed. This practice of soaking the nuts not only makes them easier to digest but also extremely tasty. Once soaked the nuts are dehydrated and develop a lovely crispy texture with a touch of saltiness. The practice of ‘activating’ nuts and seeds goes back to ancient cultures such as the Aztec who used to soak their pumpkin seeds in brine and then dry in the sun before eating them whole or grinding them into meal. For more information on this look into Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, or the work of Weston A Price who researched diets of indigenous cultures in the early 1900s.
‘Activated’ Crispy Nuts Recipe
4 cups of Nuts
1 Tablespoon Sea salt
Enough water to cover, preferably filtered or spring water.
Put in a non-reactive bowl (stainless steel, glass or pottery), stir and leave in warm place for at least 7 hours or overnight. Drain in a colander and dehydrate until completely dry and crisp. If you don’t have a dehydrator this can be done in a warm oven at approx 50°c to 65°c for 12 to 24 hours, make sure nuts are spread single layer on the tray for faster drying. Store dried nuts in an airtight container.
Walnuts are best stored in the fridge due to their large amounts of linoleic acid which makes them more susceptible to rancidity.
A point to note is that if you do use this method, the incredibly morish nuts do have a slight saltiness so if you make flour from them you might want to omit the salt from any recipe you bake with the flour.
Back to the flour making.
We hand cracked 500g of walnuts, the hammer and towel method would probably have been faster but needed to be inside to keep an eye on the pressure canner, multitasking! This yielded 113g of flesh but they were not the best quality nuts and were not very plump. Good walnuts should give a much better yield. The nuts had been nicely dried and ground well in our manual grinder, producing a good walnut flour.
I tried a keto butter biscuit recipe, which turned out well, but the bikkies didn’t hold their shape as well as the recipe made out they would. Though the original recipe used almond flour not walnut, generally you can mix and match nut flours, except coconut which absorbs a lot of moisture. The bikkies were quite tasty with just a touch of bitterness, which I don’t mind.
Walnuts do have a distinctive flavour which will affect the baked product, great in carrot cakes and as a walnut biscuit or bread. Nutrition wise walnuts have per 100g, approximately 14g carbs, 65g fat and 15g protein. This might alter a bit if the ‘activation’ method is used.
For ease of processing and quality of flour, walnuts would have to be at the top of my list along with hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds.
Walnut – Juglans regia
Fast growing deciduous tree reaching 15m plus. Seedling trees will produce edible nuts, but there will be natural variation between trees and they are generally considered to take longer to produce nuts than a grafted tree. Buying a grafted tree will give you an idea of the type of nut it will produce and the size of the grown tree. While they are a hardy tree walnuts do not like wet ground, so plant in free draining area. Any surplus nuts are great fodder or forage for livestock especially for fattening pigs. The timber is valued for making beautiful furniture.