Why Walnuts

Why California Walnuts?

California walnuts offer a unique flavor and texture, making them wonderfully versatile for both savory and sweet food product applications. As a result, research chefs and tastemakers around the world increasingly find new and exciting ways to incorporate walnuts. Try adding walnuts to baked goods, dessert bars and chocolate confections for a nutty crunch; to sauces and spreads as a wholesome thickener; or as a plant-based alternative to meat. Discover the diversity of walnuts as the perfect showcase ingredient in the biggest savory and sweet flavor trends.

Consumer Research & Demand

California Walnuts commissioned consumer research, which includes insights related to walnut usage in packaged foods. The study, conducted by an independent research firm in 2019, fielded an online survey to 4,014 people, providing a sample consistent with gender and regional distribution of walnut users and non-users in the United States.

Walnut Cluster

Taste

Walnuts from California have a sweet mild taste that makes savory sweet, and sweet savory.

Versatility

The mild flavor and texture of walnuts makes them a versatile ingredient for flavor profiles in a wide range of packaged foods – baked goods, desserts, confections, spreads and sauces, and plant-based meat alternatives.

Size & Color

Walnuts from California are sold according to size and color, ranging from light to amber, with lighter walnuts being the most popular for aesthetic reasons. See the Size & Color section to find the right fit for your needs.

Consumer Value

Walnuts are nutrient-rich and add value consumers will recognize and appreciate. As a topping, inclusion in a chocolate confection, a crust or a creamy center, California walnuts are an ideal ingredient for food professionals looking to deliver new creative products without sacrificing flavor, texture or nutrition.

Avocado Walnut Toast
Walnuts in Bowl

Nutrition

California walnuts are a whole food contributing many beneficial nutrients to the diet. For example, walnuts are the only nut to contain a significant amount of the plant-based omega-3, alpha-linolenic acid (2.5 grams per ounce of English walnuts or 9g per 100g). 

California Walnut Tonnage Map by County 2019

Where Are Walnuts Grown?

More than 99% of the walnuts in the U.S. are grown in the fertile soils of California’s Central Valley. Internationally, California supplies two-thirds of the world’s walnut trade.

Harvesting, Processing & Grading

It’s a long road from planting a walnut orchard to delivering fresh, delicious walnuts to food professionals. Each step in the process from propagation, to harvest, to packer, and finally to market, is handled with care and attention. There are 4,800+ walnut growers, a large majority being family farms, many of which have been in the walnut business for several generations. After a walnut sapling is planted, it takes four to five years for it to grow into an adult tree suitable for commercial harvesting. Although many varieties of walnuts are grown in California, four varieties account for over 90% of the market and are similar in their taste and functionality.

harvest walnuts

Harvest

The harvest begins in late August, when the outer green hulls start to split, allowing the in-shell walnuts to be removed, and continues through late November.

walnut harvesting

Gather

First, the orchard floor is swept clean. Then, mechanical shakers vigorously shake each tree and thousands of walnuts fall to the ground. The walnuts are then carefully swept into windrows to allow mechanical harvesters to pick them up for cleaning.

process walnuts

Process

The outer green husk is removed by a huller and the nut is washed, then mechanically dehydrated (air-dried) to the optimum 8% moisture level. This prevents deterioration of the nut and protects its quality during storage. Walnuts are stored in-shell until needed for cracking. California walnuts are protected from contamination due to the nut’s double envelope of hull and shell while on the tree.
grading walnuts

Grade

Walnuts are transported to a packing plant where they are graded based on usage, in-shell or shelled.

shell walnuts

Shell

Shelled walnuts are further graded by color, as shown in the walnut color chart.

screen separate walnuts

Screen & Separate

Walnut kernels are screened and separated into different sizes (refer to Size and Color chart).

food safety and cleaning walnuts

Food Safety

The walnut industry has had an exceptional track record for food safety for over a century. Food Safety is critically important to the California Walnut Industry. California walnuts are grown and processed under strict quality control standards in order to deliver a high quality product year round.

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