They lack many common vitamins and minerals, but walnuts have profound phytonutrients for your health. They are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, an essential fat the body cannot make. Omega-3’s in walnuts help protect the heart, have anti-inflammatory properties, encourage healthy brain function and help prevent many cancers. An omega-3 found in walnuts is also linked to healthy bones. Walnuts are high in fats, but these are good fats linked to lowering the risk of weight gain. They also have monounsaturated fats, which reduce the bad form of cholesterol (LDL) and the threat of clotting in arteries. Walnuts also have arginine, an essential amino acid the body cannot produce. This amino acid helps maintain smooth and elastic blood vessel walls by helping produce nitric oxide, which relaxes the smooth muscle around blood vessels. Walnuts also have many antioxidants that keep free radicals from damaging cells, especially in the cardiovascular system. Eating walnuts regularly is linked to a decrease in blood pressure. Walnuts can actually undo some of the damaging biochemical reactions caused by eating foods high in saturated fats. Cell membranes are made of fats. Introducing flexible omega-3 fatty acids increases a cell membrane’s flexibility and ability to communicate and excrete wastes. This is especially important in the brain, helping us grow closer to our full cognitive potential. Walnuts give melatonin, an antioxidant that also supports healthy biorhythms. Together all these factors make walnuts a heart-smart choice.
Vitamin and Mineral Content
Vitamins – B6 (Pyridoxine), B9 (Folate), B1 (Thiamin), B2 (Riboflavin) and B5 (Pantothenic Acid)
Minerals – Manganese, Copper, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Iron, and Potassium
A power house in preventing heart disease, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and gallstones. Research suggests antioxidants in walnuts, such as ellagic acid, reduce the risk of many forms of cancer.
How to Grow
Two types of walnut trees grow, the black walnut and the Persian/English walnut. The black walnut tree grows from 50-100 feet tall. The English walnut tree grows smaller, about 40-60 feet. Both make big-spread shade trees. These trees need full sun, great drainage and a deep, highly fertile soil. Nuts are ready to harvest in the fall. Plant a seedling from a reputable nursery instead of trying to plant seeds into the ground yourself. Squirrels usually find the nut and devour it. Be sure to dig the hole deep enough for the taproot to comfortably fit in. Mulch around the trunk with a thick layer of compost or other material, but leave a space between the trunk and the mulch to keep rodents from injuring it. Water the tree thoroughly once a week, especially in dry weather when it is young. English walnuts are popularly grown for nut production, especially in California. Most cultivars are self-fertile but will give more nuts with other walnut trees nearby. Nuts are ready to harvest in the fall 3-7 years after planting the tree. You need prune only dead or diseased branches on this tree if using it for food.
Some pests can infiltrate a walnut tree, but none are a large threat to a healthy tree growing in healthy soil. If leaf grubbing caterpillars become a problem, Bt (Bacillus thurigiensis) takes care of them. Pick up fallen sticks, husks and leaves so pests do not have a home or food over the winter.
Check with your local nursery before buying a walnut seedling, as the tree’s roots excrete the chemical juglone and may be toxic for other plants nearby. Place the walnut tree far enough from other plants that its roots cannot reach them (usually 1.5 times the height of the tree).