Orchard Origins

The humble walnut has a rich and deep history, one that starts far off in Ancient Persia and reaches all the way to present day. From its ancient origins to its use during the Victorian era, the walnut has been a staple in holiday decorations and themes for millennia. Find out about the origins of the walnut in Persia and how these nuts became known as “English Walnuts.”

History of the Walnut

Walnuts are the oldest tree food known to man. People have been eating these golden nuts as far back as 7000 BCE. In Persia, which is modern-day Iran, walnuts were reserved for royalty. That’s one of the reasons why the walnut is often called the golden walnut.
Walnuts were traded along the Silk Road, helping spread the popularity of this vibrant and dynamic tree nut. During the height of British colonization, English sea merchants took the walnut around the world, helping revise the name from the “golden walnut” to the “English walnut.”
In the late 1700s, Franciscan monks first cultivated the walnut and called them “mission” walnuts. Commercial planting started much later in 1860s California when Joseph Sexton started an English walnut crop. The central valley of California is the prime growing region for walnuts. Mild temperatures and nutrient-rich soil make it the ideal location for growing these hearty California nuts.

The Humble Walnut Has a Glided History

Golden Walnuts and Holiday Celebrations

In the Victorian era, Christmas trees were commonly decorated with fruits, raisins, paper chains and popcorn. But gilded, or golden, walnuts were the real star of the tree. During the holiday season, in-shell walnuts were decorated in gold foil and tied with a red ribbon and hung in the tree. The best part? Small prizes or trinkets were hidden inside the emptied shells!

Make Your Own Gilded Walnuts

Bring the gilded walnut into the modern era by adding it to your family’s holiday festivities! To make gilded walnuts to hang from your Hanukkah bush or Christmas tree, gather fresh, in-shell walnuts, gold leaf sheets, red ribbon, glue, paper and straight pins. You’ll need to empty the inside of the shells—which means you get to snack on heart-healthy California walnuts while you craft! Next, choose goodies to hide in your gilded walnuts. Once your prize is safely tucked inside, glue the two halves together. When the glue is dry, gild the entire nut using the gold leaf and tie a ribbon to it to hang from your tree.
Don’t forget to snap a photo of your fun craft time with walnuts so you can enter our Golden Walnut sweepstakes. One lucky winner will receive a grand prize of $5,000 and 100 runners up will win a $100 VISA gift card each! (Sweepstakes ends December 20, 2019 at 4:59 p.m. PST. See official rules for entry requirements.)

The history of the gilded walnut adds another layer of interest and intrigue to this humble nut. When you make California walnuts part of your holiday celebrations, you’re leaning on thousands of years of history.

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