The Cottage Smallholder

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Wet walnuts

wet walnutsYears ago I used to visit Partridges, a wonderful delicatessen on Sloane Square. From now, throughout October and sometimes into November, they sold wet walnuts. I discovered this delicacy there.

Wet walnuts are fresh walnuts that have not been dried for keeping. They are crunchy with a milky, mild walnut taste and excellent with a soft cheese, in a salad or a sauce. They are also packed with omega 3, if you need an excuse for rushing out to taste them. You neededn’t point your car in the direction of Partridges if you live in the country. You probably have someone in your circle of friends who has a bountifull walnut tree. I often find walnut saplings in my garden. I don’t nurture them. A walnut tree in your garden tends to result in the squirrels trying to establish a walnut grove on your lawn. Best avoided.

We tried a walnut sauce with pheasant once – made with dried walnuts. It was far too rich. I have discovered that a sauce made with wet walnuts does not have that cloying taste. It is walnutty and fresh. Perfect with game or even pasta. I suddenly twigged that most great walnut sauces are made with wet walnuts.

Last week I was exploring the estate where I am working and spotted these small green fruit in the grass. Curious, I looked up and discovered that I was standing beneath a massive walnut tree. These were the first of the season’s bounty. I peeled off the thick green skin and opened the walnut with my penknife. Walnuts don’t need nut crackers, even dried ones. Put the point of a knife into the rounded end, twist and it should open easily. At this time of year, you will have the two halves of walnut shell filled with the crisp fresh nut resting in your palm.

Today I showed my joiner friend, Hugh, the same tree and the nuts. He has a walnut tree in his garden but the squirrels get all of his before he can even say nut. Consequently, he hadn’t tasted a wet walnut. It was good to make the introductions.

When you have finished snacking don’t discard the shells. They can be made into tiny sailing boats if you have children to amuse. They also make perfect cradles for the dolls house. If you are nifty with a mini drill bit you can make a couple of holes in each half and fashion a simple hinge out of thick button thread – then you will have a romantic receptacle for a teeny present for someone very special.

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  1. farmingfriends

    We have a walnut tree at the edge of our orchard. I’m off now to check for wet walnuts! The sauce for game sounds good – do you have a recipe?
    Sara from farmingfriends

  2. Ohhhhh Not only have you introduced Hugh to them you have also introduced me to them!!!!Hmmmmm wonder where I can find a walnut tree around here. The walnuts we have in the US were the black Walnuts. They were lovely, but always messy and smelly too. And alot of work to get a small amount of nuts. But the taste was worth it. I like pickled walnuts and I take it they are made from unripe nuts here.

  3. Fresh milky white walnuts – now you’re talking!! I love peeling off the bitter tan skin from the brain shaped kernal and nibbling them – outside under a walnut tree on a sunny early autumn walk is best (and this treat coincides with my birthday). We have various locations for our walnut gathering walk (secret!) – but one year we came across some slightly different walnuts, we picked loads, back home these were identified as Black Walnuts – have you ever tried to crack a Black Walnut? Our hinged metal nutcrackers shattered! A search on Google found the recommended method from the States – put in sack and drive your SUV over them!

    By the way – after handling fresh walnuts how do you clean the indelible ochre stain off your fingers?

  4. I’ve never tried a wet walnut. Must sort that out.

    Really loved the last paragraph too with ideas for the shells!

  5. I have never heard of wet walnuts, although I used to see them regularly in my Ottawa garden. An enterprising squirrel used to bring them from my neighbour’s walnut tree …from across the street. In exchange, many of my small spring-flowering bulbs used to appear in my neighbour’s garden.

  6. You lucky so-and-so…we haven’t found a walnut tree around here yet. We have cooked a Turkish ‘Circassian Chicken’ dish that uses lots of walnuts ground-up in the sauce…very different, but it would be much better with really fresh walnuts rather than the dried ones.
    If I can locate a walnut tree, I may give it another go.

  7. You are absolutely right about walnut sauces made with dried nuts – horrid. I’ve never tried one made with wet walnuts, so am off to find a tree … we planted one here 10 years ago, but it has not yet fruited – the one my father planted in the garden of the house I grew up in took 15 years to produce a nut, just one, and we moved away before the following year’s harvest!

    There used to be a huge old walnut tree near here, but it blew down in one of the big storms, so my husband carefully planked the wood, let it dry, and then made it into doors for the kitchen dresser, which was made out of six other types of wood, all of which grew in our garden but were destroyed by the wind. It would be good to find another walnut near here …

    Thanks for this lovely post

  8. It just so happens that right now I am eating the first of the season’s wet walnuts, picked up today from my son’s greengrocery shop. We have a young tree (the old one, sadly, grew too big next to the house) but it hasn’t fruited yet.

    I’ve never cooked with them. Do you peel off the bitter brown skin?

    If anyone loses walnuts to squirrels, once I was given a plastic bagful of unripe ones, shells still soft, to make pickled walnuts. I forgot them for a couple of months but then, although messy to deal with, the shells had hardened and the nuts matured within and they were perfect.

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sara,

    I hope that you found some walnuts. I don’t have a personal recipe for walnut sauce but what I would do is use wet walnuts instead of dried ones. This looks like a good pasta recipe here

    We love eating them raw.

    Hi Pat,

    Pickled walnuts are made from unripe green walnuts, earlier in the year.

    Hi Celia,

    I have never heard of the black walnuts that you and Pat refer to.

    I eat the bitter skin along with the nut and haven’t noticed any stains on my hands

    Hi Amanda,

    I hope that you can find some wet walnuts.

    There was a walnut shell crib in my dolls house, when I was a child.

    Hi Kate,

    That’s amusing ! I love the exchange of walnuts for bulbs.

    Hi Richard,

    I think that it would definitely be worth trying the same recipe again with the wet walnuts if you find some.

    Hi Joanna,

    I am amazed that it takes so long for a walnut tree to produce nuts.

    What a lovely use of the wood from trees that have been blown down in storms. This must make your dresser very special indeed.

    Hi z,

    I keep the skin on the walnuts when I make a sauce, I like the sharp edge of flavour. I must experiment and try a sauce without the skins.

    Thanks for the tip about the walnuts maturing off the tree.

  10. Monique in Texas

    Love your blog. When you’ve done removing the husks from your walnuts, they will make a very nice dark dye or “sadden” other natural dyes–lots of tannic acid in them.

    Have you tried our Texas pecans???

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