Don’t get Bitter: Ten Tips for Walnuts

Children’s author Raold Dahl attributed his sharp brain in later life to his daily habit of eating a handful of walnuts.

The amazing benefits of this strange looking anti aging super food go far beyond “just” keeping your brain cells alert – although that would be enough for most of us right there.

The trouble is walnuts can be a bit divisive – you either love them or hate them and those in the latter camp claim they hate their nasty bitter taste.

Those that love them – like me stand back in amazement at this claim. Truth is – walnuts should never taste bitter – if you think they do it could well be that they are past their best and the oil in the nut has gone rancid.

Good fresh walnuts taste juicy, nutty and sweet. If he ate them everyday and loved them – Mr Dahl (or his wife) must have been buying and storing his walnuts properly.

Taste matters – your taste buds and sense of smell are essential bits of high tech scientific equipment that warn you off the wrong things and entice you to eat what’s good for you.

We all know that the fresher a piece of fruit or a vegetable the more potent its nutritional value. This applies to nuts too – possibly even more so because of the high oil content.

Rancid walnuts just don’t cut it as a superfood – you might as well eat cardboard.

So – here’s ten tips to help you find the freshest walnuts around and keep them that way:

1. Homegrown rules – the US (largely California) is the leading world producer of walnuts – If you can’t get fresh delicious walnuts in the US – where can you get them? Eating walnuts is almost something of a patriotic duty!

2. English is best – the variety not the country that is. English walnuts are widely accepted as the most delicious eating walnuts around and funny though it seems – most of them are grown on American soil.

3. Know your supplier – make sure that you buy from a reliable source that guarantees freshness. This doesn’t have to be a specialist natural foods store – in fact some smaller town stores have lower turnover and may offer foods too close to their best buy dates. Your favorite big supermarket is fine – so long as you trust their fresh produce generally.

4. Do a shell inspection – reject any walnuts that have cracked, pierced or stained shells as this can be a sign of mould inside the nut. Mould comes from poor drying practice – taken from the tree walnuts need to be dried to an 8% moisture content level – lower than this they dry out – with higher levels they can go mouldy.

5. Wriggle room matters – make sure you buy shell-on walnuts with a little bit of rattle when you shake them – the nut shouldn’t be too tightly packed in the shell or it will be impossible to crack and get out in one piece.

6. Run a beauty contest – avoid rubbery, dark or shrunken nuts as this can be a sign of old age or mould. A fresh walnut is a lovely light brown on the outside and the flesh of the nut is light cream and has a soft melting texture.

7. Buy online – find a specialist supplier with a high turnover of stock – the best I found is the appropriately named: – the original company originates from 1929 and the website is a treasure trove of information that seems to be doing great things in customer service judging by the reviews.

8. Eat them quickly and buy some more. As a rough estimate – buy one month’s supplies at a time to ensure freshness. Buying in bulk may seem like a great economy but you may waste your cash if they go off before you eat them.

9. Protect the freshness – store you walnuts carefully to retain all the lovely taste and nutritional benefits. Shelled walnuts should be stored in an airtight container in a cool area of the kitchen or the fridge. I store mine in a dark colored plastic container with a seal inside a kitchen cupboard – light degrades the oils.

10. Be ruthless – give your walnuts a use by date – if the packet has a dated label store it in the container – otherwise label the container clearly with the date you bought them. You might think you’ll remember but weeks become months and suddenly they taste bad. Stored properly nuts should last for up to 6 months – but that is 6 months from their freshest point. In fact there will be a degradation in flavor and freshness each mongth you keep them – so set a deadline and chuck them out if you still have them – at the absolute latest – 6 months down the line.

All this will become second nature if you get the walnut habit. Once you taste the freshest English walnuts without any hint of bitterness and start to feel the benefits in skin, hair and health – you could acquire the habit for life.