A tough nut
Walnut trees supply us with delicious nuts and a noble, yet robust wood. It is basically chocolate brown streaked with lighter and darker grains that are sometimes almost on the crimson side. Its rich lustre intensifies with age and increasingly emphasises the elegant grain. Faults and irregularities in the wood give walnut its unique character, and it is particularly that characteristic that makes this wood so valuable for the furniture industry – and so expensive. Walnut wood is one of the favourite wood species of artists and often used for musical instruments, chess pieces and weapon handles.
A divine snack
With a high fat and protein content, nuts are much sought-after energy suppliers in the cold season. People have appreciated them from time immemorial so that nut trees came to spread around the globe. For such a tree, only the best was good enough – the highest gods, for instance. The Romans thus called the precious nuts “Jupiter's acorns” and the Greek “nuts of Zeus”. In Celtic mythology, the walnut tree symbolised the search for perpetuity and eternity.
Nut or fruit?
For a long time botanists and biologists argued whether the walnut really was a nut. Until recently it was still classified among drupes, together with cherries and apricots. Meanwhile it has been accepted as a botanical nut because the green husk around the hard shell does not consist of part of the blossoms, but is formed by part of the foliage.
Its great canopy makes the walnut tree appear hardier than it actually is. The reason stems from its origin. Native to the region between the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf, the walnut tree prefers a mild climate. Our harsh weather can be dangerous to this tree because it is very light-demanding and extremely sensitive to the cold. If late frost damages the blossom in April, there won't be any nuts that year.
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