There are several species of walnut trees, each producing a slightly different nut. The fruits themselves are actually a drupe or a stone fruit, the nut is the “stone” inside. The fruit must be fully ripe to release the stone inside. The stone is protected by a hard shell, within which an edible kernel is further protected by an anti-oxidant rich seed coat that protects the oils within the nut from going rancid, allowing it to retain its freshness well after the fruit has become quite unpleasant and removed.
Walnut trees can grow very large, up to 100 feet tall, with a spread of up to 70 feet and can live for 100 years. The compound leaves can contain 20 leaflets
Walnut wood is beautiful, durable and versatile and used for making furniture, cabinets, railings, and flooring.
Walnuts in the Garden
Walnut trees can be impressive shade trees, though many find them messy, dropping catkins in the spring and fruit in autumn. Their leaves appear quite late in the season, so they are great for homes that are looking to collect passive solar heat through winter and early spring, but want to be shaded in the heat of summer. These leaves turn yellow in the fall.
Black walnuts secrete chemicals into the soil that prevent competing plants from growing nearby. Unless careful consideration is made for companion plants, one may find their garden plans hampered by this tenancy. On the other hand, if you’re not fond of mowing and weeding, a walnut tree might be exactly what you need for that corner of the yard you hope to neglect. Most native American wildflowers and shrubs and many shade-loving plants are tolerant of juglone, but most garden plants, like tomatoes and cabbages, will be damaged or killed by the toxin (beans and beets are tolerant).
Walnut is also a wonderful tree for those who enjoy wildlife, as it provides food and shelter for many species.
Walnuts need some extra care when they are young: regular watering and a deep mulch (that doesn’t actually touch the bark) help give it a good start.
It takes from 4-10 years for a walnut tree to begin bearing fruit and generally only bear a heavy crop every second year.
Juglans regia English Walnut, Persian Walnut- native to Persia, is the most commonly available walnut as it is pretty easy to shell, travels well and has a good flavor.
Juglans nigra Black Walnut- is native to the United States. It has a stronger flavor than English walnut but it does not shell as easily, so, while it can be found commercially, it is not as popular with commercial growers. This is the tallest walnut species and can grow to 100 feet, but usually 50-75. The fruits grow in clusters. The rind exudes a black dye that can stain the fingers, and is very useful for artists and crafters.
Juglans cinerea Butternut or White Walnut- Native to the Northeastern U.S., grows to about 60 feet tall. Nuts are tasty and oil-rich.
Juglans californica California black walnut – Is often use for rootstock for commercially grafted English walnut.
Juglans major Arizona walnut – Native to the American Southwest, this tree is hardiest in drier areas. It is smallish and shrublike, usually about 20 feet tall. Its nuts have thin, hairy husks.
Harvesting and Storing Walnuts
Walnuts will often fall to the ground on their own as they begin to ripen, but you can encourage stragglers by hitting the branches with a pole.
Walnuts should be stored away from light in a cool dry area in a pest-proof container. Temperatures about 86 degrees Farenheight and humidity above 70% encourage the growth of toxin-producing molds. Unshelled walnuts will store longer than shelled walnuts. Refrigerating walnuts will increase their shelf life.
Walnuts in the Kitchen
Walnuts are a nutrient-dense source of plant-based protein and fats. They are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenol antioxidants, B-vitamins, Vitamin E, manganese, copper, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, selenium.
Walnuts add a wonderful touch to baked goods like fruit breads and cakes, and are also tasty on salads. They are also tasty by themselves, raw, toasted, candied or pickled. Walnuts can be ground for nut butter or pressed for walnut oil. Walnut oil has a low smoke point, so it is best used raw, as for salad dressings.
Walnuts can be used as a substitute for pecan in most recipes.
Walnuts for Healing
Walnuts are a great addition to a healthy diet to maintain overall health. Studies suggest that eating walnuts daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, provided the entire diet remains within recommendations for general nutrient intake. (That is, walnuts are high in fat in calories, it is not helpful to increase your fat and calorie intake by eating walnuts but instead eat less of other, less nutritious high fat or calorie foods.)
Walnuts have been used in folk medicine for a variety of conditions for the nervous system and for parasites.
Walnut oil makes a good carrier oil for products for dry or aging skin,
Walnuts in Magick
Walnut wood makes wonderful wands and staves for those who use their wand or staff for weather working, abundance, insight, healing, focus, wealth, creativity and motivation. Walnut wood also makes exceptional and beautiful rune stones and spirit boards.
Ink made from walnuts (black walnut produces the darkest color) is wonderful for writing spells on paper and for writing in one’s Book of Shadows and for darkening magical tools made from wood.
To make a wish/grow an intention, break open an English walnut and take out the meats and eat them. Write your intention as a positive statement “I am/have thingy” (versus I wish I had, or I will have, or I am not/don’t, etc.) on a very small piece of paper. Fold it and tuck it into your walnut shell, close the shell and use glue or wax to seal it. Bury it outside to “grow” your intention. Say it out loud as you plant it. (You can elaborate on this however you like, with suitable oils, incense, candles, chants, etc. suited to your intention.)
You can also use an English walnut shell to create an abundance charm. Crack open the shell and remove the kernel as above. Add small items that correspond to abundance, or the element of Earth or the planet Jupiter or the Sun and anoint it with an abundance oil. Seal with wax or glue and carry it with you or hang it in your home. You can elaborate this spell with any candles, incense, chants, etc. you feel are suitable.
Other uses for Walnuts
Most walnut husks can be oxidized to produce a dark brown or black ink, but black walnut is the best. It produces a deep, rich ink, or dye for fabrics or hair. Both Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt used walnut ink.
Finely ground walnut shells can be added to cleansers as an exfoliate.
Walnuts and walnut oil should be used with caution or not at all by people who are allergic to other nuts and nut oils.
Hoof problems and respiratory issues have been reported in horses kept close to walnut trees or using walnut wood chips for bedding.
As fallen walnut husks ferment, mold grows and can produce a toxin that can sicken any animals that ingest it. Pick up walnuts that fall quickly if you have dogs and discard any walnuts that show significant rot, in case the toxin has leached into the kernel.