Image credit: Mollie Katzen/walnuts.org
Walnuts are rounded, single-seeded stone fruits of the walnut tree. The two most common major species of walnuts are grown for their seeds — the Persian (or English) walnut and the Black walnut. While the English walnut originated in Persia, the Black walnut is native to eastern North America. The Black walnut is of high flavor, but its hard shell and poor hulling characteristics leave it unsavory for commercial growth for nut production. The commercially produced walnut varieties are nearly all hybrids of the English walnut.
Read on to learn about the health benefits of walnuts, and how you can make your own delicious walnut butter from the comfort of your own home!
Health Benefits In A Nutshell
From ancient times through the 19th century, herbalists prescribed the nut, bark, roots, and leaves of the walnut for a variety of medicinal purposes. The nut itself was used to prevent weight gain, eliminate morning sickness, calm hysteria, and strengthen one’s constitution.
Walnuts are a nutrient-dense food: 100 grams of walnuts contains 15.2 grams of protein, 65.2 grams of fat, and 6.7 grams of dietary fiber. They can be considered a superfood because they contain a full complement of vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and folic acid; as well as a wealth of minerals, such as iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. They are also quite rich in vitamin E (alpha, beta, delta, and gamma tocopherol), making them exceptionally high in antioxidants, and they contain both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in only a few plant food sources.
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 1994, showed that those whose diets included walnuts (or almonds) were able to lower their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by up to 10%. Another study appearing in the July 1995 edition of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that walnuts could also diminish the extent of heart damage after a heart attack.
One thing to remember is that walnuts are high in saturated fat and low in protein, so consider limiting your walnut butter serving size and sprinkling some other protein-powered nuts, such as pistachios, on top.
How To Make Your Own!
Recipe: California Walnut Butter
Yield: 1 cup, 8 servings
- 2 cups walnuts
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tsp walnut or vegetable oil (or as needed)
- A little agave or cinnamon (optional, to taste)
Walnut butter can be made using raw, soaked, or toasted walnuts, depending on the level of crunch you crave. Here’s how to make all three, and how they differ.
Use raw walnuts for a very creamy and smooth texture that tastes just like a shelled walnut.
This method removes some of the tannin from the walnut skin, and offers a more textured result. Soak overnight, drain and discard water. Then, toast the walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet at 350° F for up to 15 minutes to dry them out (don’t let them get dark !). Cool walnuts before making them into butter.
To enhance the sweet, nutty flavor, toast your walnuts before making them into butter. Walnut butter made using toasted walnuts will provide a coarse, textured finished product. Toast walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet at 350° F for 8 to 10 minutes, or until fragrant. Cool walnuts before making them into butter.
Making the butter
Make your walnut butter by putting the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor, and grinding until they become sticky or paste-like. Add the salt. Add the oil, a little at a time, until the walnut butter binds together. If you like, add small touches of agave and/or cinnamon to taste.
Use your freshly made walnut butter in one of these awesome recipes.