Orchard Origins

Have you ever wondered how walnuts are grown? It’s a long road from planting a walnut orchard to delivering fresh, delicious walnuts straight to your local grocery store. Each step is handled with great care and attention. Growing walnuts is a time-consuming process that takes a lot of care and patience, but it’s well worth it in the end.

It all begins with planting a sapling. Then it’s time to wait. After a walnut tree sapling is planted, it can take five to seven years for it to become an adult. During this time, the trees must be carefully tended and properly cultivated.

Harvest

Once the tree becomes an adult, harvesting usually begins in late August. Harvesters know it’s time to harvest when they see the walnuts’ outer green hulls drying and starting to split. This is what allows them to remove the walnuts from inside.

Gather

Since it can be a real challenge to collect the thousands of walnuts produced on a farm, equipment is used to help it make it easier. First, the orchard is swept clean. Then, mechanical shakers are used to vigorously shake the trees until the walnuts fall. The process is designed to ensure the trees are not harmed. Finally, the walnuts are carefully swept to allow mechanical harvesters to pick them up for cleaning. Harvesting typically continues until late November.

Process

After harvesters pick up the walnuts, the outer green husk is removed by a huller and the nut is washed and mechanically air-dried to the optimum moisture level. This prevents deterioration of the nut and protects its quality during storage. Walnuts are stored in-shell until needed for cracking.

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Grade

Walnuts are transported to a packing plant where they are graded based on usage, in-shell or shelled. Shelled walnuts are further graded by color. Walnut kernels are then screened and separated into different sizes.

California walnuts are grown, harvested, and processed following strict Federal and State food safety regulations. As a result, California walnuts often exceed quality standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

There are over 4,800 walnut growers in California, with a large majority being family farms. Many of these growers have been in the walnut business for several generations and are extremely proud of the work they do. So, the next time you bite into a perfectly crunchy and delicious walnut, remember everything that went into making it that way. And say thanks your local California walnut grower!

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