I am indeed lucky to have experienced the California Walnut harvest at the expense of the California Walnut Commission. It is a joy and a thrill to learn how the food I love to eat is grown and produced. I want to share my experience with you as best as I can, so I’m posting photos and details of the trip. The Barton family were all wonderful hosts and taught us quite a bit about how they tend to their ranch. I’ve not been paid for this post, nor has anyone asked me to write it. Except where noted, the photos are compliments of the California Walnut Commission.
I never knew that walnuts were covered with a green hull. When the hulls split, the walnuts are ready for harvest. Some drop to the ground on their own.
This is a shaker. A claw grabs the trunk and shakes the living daylights out of the tree so that it rains walnuts.
The Bartons shake each tree twice, about 12 days apart. This was a noisy process, and a bit scary too. We were never in any danger though because the Bartons and others herded us away from plummeting walnuts.
Mr. Barton holds a walnut still in its green hull and another walnut without the hull. He split the walnut shell in half and shows us two perfect hearts. You know that walnuts are good for the heart, right? How cool is that?
The sweepers push the walnuts into rows to be collected and transferred to a hulling and drying facility.
Today sophisticated machinery can hull and load 7,000 pounds of walnuts in 12 minutes. Back in the day, it took 2 days to do the same work!!
The walnuts spend about 24 hours drying before they go to the processing plant.
This is a very small view of a processing plant. The machinery for cleaning, sorting, packaging and boxing is very sophisticated. Here you see workers separating walnuts by color, size and more. What few bad walnuts are found are used as bird feed.
Besides their beauty and great taste, there’s lots to love about walnuts. They are the only nut to provide a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Plus, they have fiber, magnesium, and a host of health-boosting phytonutrients. They are studied for their role in heart and brain health, as well as cancer prevention. I cook with them often. A favorite is stuffed mushrooms with onions, garlic, mushroom pieces, walnuts and goat cheese. You can find lots of wonderful recipes and tips at the site for the California Walnut Commission.