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Go nuts about walnuts in honor of National Walnut Day! This ancient, healthful nut makes a great addition to sweet treats, salads, trail mixes and so many other interesting dishes. While other nuts often take center stage, the walnut is absolutely worth celebrating and appreciating on National Walnut Day.

History of National Walnut Day

As the oldest known tree that has provided food to humans, walnuts have a history that can be traced back for thousands of years. It didn’t take long for humans to discover that the walnut is an easy to store and simple to eat nut. Plus, it travels well and offers great nutritional benefits.

In Persia, the walnut was referred to as the Royal Nut and it was only allowed to be eaten by people of royal heritage. During the reign of Alexander the Great, the walnut was brought to Greece from Persia and it was referred to as the Persian Nut for more than 1000 years. However, over time, the Greek version became smaller and inferior to the Persian walnut. In fact, the Greeks were envious of the Persian walnut, so they brought some Persian cultivars back to Greece to improve their breeds.

The Greek name for the walnut is karyon, which means head. This is actually fairly spot on, because the outside shell resembles a human head and the interior nut looks a bit like a brain!

Walnuts likely made their way further into Europe somewhere between 500–700 BC and then moved west after that. The nut probably traveled to the British Isles with the Roman Empire. It was somewhere around this point that it picked up its name “English walnut”, which is used to distinguish it from the black walnut.

Eventually, the walnut crossed the ocean and found a path to the New World. It was a group of Franciscan Fathers who found that the climate of Southern California was an important one for growing these deciduous trees. And this is likely the reason they picked up the name “mission walnuts”. California walnuts have become so popular that they account for 99% of the commercial walnut industry in the United States, a large portion of walnut trade in the world.

National Walnut Day dates back more than 70 years! It was in 1949 that the Walnut Marketing Board in the United States established the day with the purpose of celebrating and promoting this delicious and nutritious nut. US President Dwight D. Eisenhower made the day a public holiday in 1958 and National Walnut Day has continued to be celebrated every year since that time.

National Walnut Day Timeline

7000 BC

Humans cultivate walnuts

The oldest tree food known to man, walnuts are cultivated starting in Persia. [1]

1754 BC

First documented account of the walnut

The cultivation of the walnut is mentioned in The Code of Hammurabi, the oldest code of laws in the world. [2]

600 BC

Walnut plants arrive in Europe

Around this time, the walnut plant makes its way from Persia into Europe. [3]

17th Century AD

Walnuts land in America

English settlers are responsible for bringing walnut plants to the New World.

Late 1900s

Walnuts are cultivated in Chile

The climate in Chile does well for growing walnuts and the country eventually becomes the world’s third largest walnut exporter. [4]

How to Celebrate National Walnut Day

Enjoy tons of fun on National Walnut Day by celebrating in style with some of these tasty ideas:

Learn Some Health Benefits of Walnuts

National Walnut Day is a perfect time to get a bit more familiar with some of the health benefits that are offered by this little nut. Take a look at these ways that the walnut is a healthy choice for snacking and baking:

  • Filled with Antioxidants

    Walnuts contain the most antioxidants of any of the commonly eaten nuts. The high Vitamin E content, melatonin and polyphenols can help to prevent oxidative damage and promote the lowering of “bad” cholesterol.

  • High in Healthy Fat

    Omega-3 fat is an essential ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) that is a vital part of the human diet, especially for the prevention of heart disease. A single one ounce serving of walnuts provides a full daily supply of this important nutrient.

  • Promotes Gut Health

    Walnuts offer essential bacteria and microbes that help with the functioning of overall gut health.

  • May Decrease Inflammation

    One of the common triggers for health problems in inflammation and walnuts offer nutrients, such as polyphenols, that can reduce oxidative stress that tends to cause inflammation. This could be beneficial in reducing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and even cancer.

Make Some Candied Walnuts

While candied pecans and toasted almonds are often thought of as some favorite snacks made from nuts, candied walnuts are absolutely worth trying out. Candied walnuts are delicious for snacking, adding as a topping to salads or used as a garnish on cakes and other sweet treats. And, they’re super easy to make!

Really, it’s as simple as just three ingredients: walnuts, butter and sugar. Add all of the ingredients to a skillet and heat for five minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. Separate nuts on parchment paper and allow to cool.

Share Fun Facts About Walnuts

One super clever way to raise awareness about the goodness and health of walnuts might be to learn a few bits of trivia about this nut that can be shared. Tell friends and coworkers about some fun facts while encouraging them to celebrate National Walnut Day in their chosen fashion.

Get started with some of these:

  • Even since ancient times, walnuts have been used for various health benefits and have even been considered to be medicinal for treating issues such as bad breath, wound healing and reduction of inflammation.

  • Walnut trees can grow to be very large, up to 60 feet tall. They can produce walnuts for more than 100 years!

  • Walnuts are best when kept cool, so it’s ideal to store them in the refrigerator or freezer for the best flavor and the longest life.

  • The state of California produces approximately one billion pounds of walnuts every single year. Now that’s a whole lot of nuts!

Make Baked Goods with Walnuts

Enjoy the delicious National Walnut Day by getting some walnuts for the kitchen and adding them to a variety of baked goods. This might mean adding chopped walnuts to a loaf of banana bread, a selection of oatmeal muffins, a pan of freshly baked brownies or a variety of other tasty baked treats. Be sure to bake up extra treats with walnuts and pass them out at work, share them with neighbors and offer them to family members in observance of National Walnut Day!

National Walnut Day FAQs

Are walnuts good for you?

Some studies have shown that walnuts are a source of vitamins and minerals, as well as lowering “bad” cholesterol. [1]

How to toast walnuts?

Walnuts can be toasted in a single layer for 8-10 minutes at 350 F. [2]

Can dogs eat walnuts?

Though it may not hurt them to have a stray walnut, dog owners should avoid feeding them to dogs as they can be a choking hazard.[3]

Do walnuts go bad?

When exposed to heat for a period of time, walnuts can begin to smell rancid and taste bad. [4]

Do walnuts have protein?

Yes, walnuts have 4.5 grams of protein per ¼ cup. [5]

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