After Brent's father retired, he planted a small grove of walnut trees that grew and thrived. Except that the squirrels love them so, he had no problems growing an abundant crop. Each autumn he spends time drying, cracking, and packaging his walnuts. And they are delicious! A store-bought walnut could never hold a candle in flavor and texture to the ones he grows in his back yard.
Sweets, savories, and anything in-between benefit from the taste, texture, and nutritional value of walnuts. Heart-studies show that walnuts are beneficial for the health of the heart, as they have no cholesterol and are rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These good fats result in a lower level of low-density lipoprotein (the bad fats) and a higher level of high-density lpoprotein (the good fats). HDL's are known to reduce bad cholestrol levels in the body. Walnuts also contain iron, minerals, fiber and a lack of sugar. Even the skins of a walnut are good for you! Called the pellicle, the thin brown skin covering the meat of the walnut contains tannins. The darker the skin, the more tannins there are. These compounds are the same as are found in red wine and are associated with promoting a healthy heart.
Eating fresh walnuts out of hand is delicious, but there are also other ways to enjoy them. Here are just a few simple ideas:
Maple Glazed Walnuts: In a saucepan, melt together 1/2 cup maple syrup, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cook until mixture becomes thick and brown and starts to thicken. Add 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla and 2 cups of walnuts and stir until glazed. Then, place on wax paper to cool.
Pesto: In a food processor, combine 1 1/2 cups fresh basil, 1/2 cup parsley, 1/2 cup walnuts, 2 large cloves garlic, and 3/4 cup olive oil. Whiz until smooth. Then, stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (vegan parmesan cheese alternatives work well for this). Serve as a sauce for pasta or brown rice. Top with additional toasted walnuts.
Sandwich Filling: Mash together equal portions of chopped walnuts and chopped black or green olives. Blend with softened cream cheese (Tofutti soy cream cheese is delicious for this). Spread on a cracker or whole grain bread for a snack or open-faced sandwich.
Savory Sidedish: Saute sliced or chopped mushrooms in olive oil with a little grated orange peel and chopped walnuts. Serve as a topping for baked potatoes or as a side for a leafy green salad.
Crunchy Rice: Cook 3/4 cup basmati brown rice in 1 1/2 cups water until tender. Then add 1/4 cup toasted, chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup fresh dill, 1/4 cup golden raisins, 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, and 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Toss and season with mineral salt to taste.