The Walnut: Once Known as the Royal Nut
By: Habeeb Salloum/Arab America Contributing Writer
Walnuts regarded as the oldest tree-food appear to have originated in Persia from where they spread eastward and westward. In Mesopotamia, inscriptions from 2,000 B.C. have been found on clay tablets indicating the existence of walnut groves within the famed Hanging Gardens of Babylon and an inscription carved on a stela, containing the Code of Hammurabi.
The walnut appears in Greek mythology in the story of Carya, with whom the god Dionysus fell in love. After she died, Dionysus transformed her into a walnut tree. The Romans had a love affair with the walnut, calling it the Royal Nut of Jove, the king of their many mythological gods. They spread its cultivation throughout their empire and after the discovery of the Americas English settlers and missionaries brought it to the new world. Today, the largest producers of walnuts are China, the U.S.A., and Iran, accounting for over 50% of the world supply.
Walnuts, somewhat sweet to the taste and with a meaty flesh, come in some 60 species. They are rich in protein, fiber, and carbohydrates and are considered to be a super food because they contain a full complement of vitamins, including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and folic acid. They also contain a wealth of minerals, such as iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
Since ancient times they have been prescribed by herbalists for many afflictions. The bark, roots, and leaves of the walnut tree have been employed as an astringent, a laxative, a purgative to induce vomiting, a styptic to stop bleeding, a vermifuge to expel worms or parasites; and as a cure for diarrhoea, liver ailments, boils, eczema, hives, ulcers, and sores. The nut itself and its oil were used to treat colic, dandruff, dry hair, gangrene, morning sickness, and open wounds, while the green rind of the walnut was used to treat ringworm.
As a food, walnuts are great for snacks and as ingredients in other foods, especially pastries.
1/2 cup blanched, toasted and pulverized almonds,
1/2 cup pulverized walnuts
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons honey
Thoroughly combine all ingredients; then serve as a spread on toasted or Arab (pita) bread for breakfast or as an after meal dessert.
Serves about 8
6 slices white bread, crusts removed, soaked in milk then squeezed dry
1/2 cup finely ground walnuts
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
extra olive oil
Place all ingredients, except almonds and extra olive oil, in a food processor, then process into smooth paste, adding a little milk if necessary. Spread on a platter, then decorate with almonds. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and serve.
Lemon and Walnut Salad
Serves about 6
3 medium lemons
1 medium onion, very finely chopped
1 large bunch parsley, thoroughly washed, stemmed and finely chopped
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried mint
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
12 pitted black olives, sliced in half
Peel yellow rind of the lemons, leaving the white skin underneath intact then finely chop lemons, discarding pits and place in a salad bowl. Add remaining ingredients, except olives then toss. Decorate with olives and serve.
Walnut Stuffed Dates
1 pound whole dates, pitted
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped in large pieces
3/4 cup half and half cream
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon orange blossom water4 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup shredded coconut
Slit the dates on one side, then stuff with the walnuts. Close and set aside.
Place cream in a small pot then bring it to boil over medium heat. Add the sugar then stir until it melts. Lower heat to low and add orange blossom water and cocoa then stirring the entire time cook for about 5 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.
Dip dates in cocoa syrup, then roll in the coconut and place on a serving tray.
Walnut and Cashew Rolls
1 1/2 cup walnuts
1 1/4 cups raw cashew nuts
1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pound package filo dough
oil for frying
Place walnuts, cashews, cardamom and 1 cup of the sugar in a food processor then process for a minute to make a filling. Set aside.
Place remaining sugar and water in a pot and bring to boil. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes then stir in lemon juice to make syrup. Leave on the very low heat.
Cut filo dough into quarters then cover with a lightly damp cloth. Take one piece at a time and place 1 level tablespoon of filling along the middle of bottom edge. Fold both sides over filling. Wet with fingers top edge then roll from the bottom up and seal against a wet edge. Repeat until all filo dough pieces are finished.
Place oil 1 to 2 inches deep in a saucepan, then heat. Fry rolls over medium heat, turning them over until they lightly evenly brown. Remove then place in warm syrup for a few moments. Remove from syrup and allow to cool.