Walnuts are a type of hickory grown in
temperate climates, like California. They are the second ranking nut crop in
the United States, after almonds. There are two types of walnuts; Black or
American, and English or Persian walnut.
English walnuts comes in several
varieties and are the most common and widely available of the two. About the
size of a small plum, a light brown shell (fairly easy to crack), encloses two
gnarled halves of ivory-colored nutmeat.
The Black or American walnut is
harder to find. The nut has a hard shell that is darker in color than the
English, and has a stronger flavor.
Unshelled walnuts should be free of
any cracks or holes and the nutmeat should be crisp and meaty. Shriveling of
the nutmeat is an indication that the nut is too old. Unshelled walnuts can be
stored in a cool, dry place up to three months. Shelled walnuts can be stored
in the refrigerator (6 months) or freezer (one year) in airtight containers or
The rich flavor of the walnut is
enhanced by toasting and makes it perfect in making pastries, muffins and
breads, cookies, and cakes.