Nuts about walnuts

By Shelly Detwiler, berry farmer and dietician

World Dairy Expo, from the mouth of Farmer Paul is “the world series, the super bowl or the Daytona 500 of the cow world.” The only place in the world where the big question starting the week is “What color are the arena shaving?” 

Nowhere else can you eat ice cream every day, fill your bag with cow tail candy at the trade show, stand in some giant wooden shoes, and party it up every night with “cowboys and cowgirls.” It was time to return to this shindig since it had been over 25 years since my last tagalong to Madison, Wis., home of the World Dairy Expo and my recent adventures. The weather was spectacular with warm balmy Wisconsin temperatures and a kaleidoscope of the changing seasons. Three other cow wives and I decided to escape the world of moos for a day and travel Madison by E-Bike. We trekked around the lakes, hills, and neighborhoods in search of, you guessed it, ice cream! One of the avid cyclists stated, “watch out for the green balls, they are lethal!” Looking around, no green balls to be found I pedaled on. Again, “Watch out for the green balls!” I saw nothing but walnuts, which I’m not going to disagree are a hazard on a bicycle. “You mean the walnuts?” If you don’t have the pleasure of having walnuts in a yard, farm, woods, or park near you, you are really missing out from this great, but sometimes annoying, American treasure. They can derail bikes, shoot out as mower missiles, or stain your hands for weeks.

These provoking little nuts are big business in California where over 99% of U.S. walnuts are commercially produced. states that walnuts are the oldest tree food known to man, dating back to 7000 B.C. Early trade routes helped spread the love of walnuts around the world to their popularity today. Walnuts arrived in California with the Franciscans. These “mission walnuts” were small with hard shells and grown in the “Mediterranean climate” of southern California. By the late 1940s walnut production, in “one of the most dramatic agricultural moves in history” shifted to central and northern California which became the perfect home for walnuts. 

Around 85% of California walnuts come from six varieties. Seedlings take 5 to 7 years of nurturing before the first walnut can be enjoyed. In late August, walnuts begin their journey to your table. These “green balls” are mechanically shaken from the trees, swept into wind rows, and sucked up from the orchard floor with some really cool looking equipment. The farms then deliver the walnuts to their huller/dryer where the outer green husk is removed. The walnuts are washed and then dried to around 8%. Off to the processor where the first question is: in-shell or shelled? In-shell walnuts are sized, washed again, hand sorted and packed into sacks. Shelled walnuts are sized, and gently cracked. The kernels then go through a gentle cycle of shaking like one of those shopping mall massage chairs, where they are sized, the shell/foreign material is blown away and sorted into more than four size groups. These beauties go through a final hand sorted inspection, packaged and are ready to ship worldwide. Check out this amazing video of the walnut journey:

Fresh walnuts have a sweet nutty taste. Their nutrition secret superpower is that they are the only nut that contains alpha-linoleic acid. Alpha-linoleic acid is the plant version of omega-3 fatty acids. It takes as little as a daily 1-ounce serving to show benefits in heart disease, diabetes, cancer, gut health, and weight management. What is a 1-ounce serving? An ounce equals a quarter cup, a handful or 12 to 14 walnut halves. Costco supplies all the Detwiler walnut needs in 3-pound bags. Due to their high fat content, be sure to store your walnuts is in your fridge or freezer to keep them fresh and tasting terrific.

Walnuts are so much more than green annoying autumn balls. They are delightful in all your holiday baking as well as topping salads, pancakes, oatmeal, fish, yogurt, veggies, fruit, or ice cream. Snack on a handful as you watch your nightly shows. The possibilities are endless. Enjoy a delicious handful today.

Eat well and Healthy,


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