One of the fun things I was able to do while I was in San Francisco in October: tour a walnut farm during harvest. Yes, really! It was a really cool learning experience… I’ve never thought too much about my walnuts or how they grow, but apparently – and don’t laugh at me for not knowing this – they grow on trees. Yup.
We took about an hour bus drive up to Winters, CA, to the Mariani Nut headquarters.
They kindly took us to some of their fields to see the harvest process. We’d been told that we would get to see the trees get shaken – omg! how do you harvest walnuts? By shaking the trees! the walnuts just fall down. Whoa.
I foolishly thought that the trees would get shaken by a person, but… well, check out this video I took, you might be able to see…
If you did or didn’t click the link, well, this machine you see here has what looks like a long tuning fork but with padding along it… which surrounds the trunk of the tree and then it literally just shakes the tree back and forth. The walnuts rain down. I was far enough away where it wasn’t an issue, but I just kept laughing and thinking how funny it would be to hold an umbrella up while standing under a walnut tree while it’s being shaken… yeah, I have a weird sense of humor.
We were brought through the orchard to look at the trees. When I expressed a lot of interest in the walnuts themselves, our guide took a few walnuts off the tree and showed us that the shells on these were thin enough to crack with just our hands! The taste of the fresh walnuts was slightly bitter, slightly “nuttier” than the walnuts you get in packages. The green walnuts were ‘wetter’ tasting as well… but the scent, oh the scent was amazing. I wanted to bottle it – just the pure smell of freshness – that’s how amazing they smelled.
I took a photo of two other bloggers taking photos of the nuts on the tree because I think those types of things are funny. Much later, I realized that the girl on the right is the girl I tweeted about; she blogs about restaurants in LA and was chatting with me a little. She asked me what I was going to do during my time in SF, and when I said, “Oh, I’m going to The French Laundry for my birthday,” she responded very unabashedly that she didn’t know what that was. While the conversation has gone on about whether that’s such a huge deal to not know what TFL is or not when you write about restaurants, and there are valid views on both sides of the discussion, I was pretty stunned.
We were then taken to an older orchard, where they used to space the trees much farther apart and allow them to grow much taller. Since then, science and research has shown that the closer spaced trees thrive just as well, perhaps better, so most orchards have switched to the newer, closer style. But look at how GORGEOUS this orchard is! My first question – and a sign of my age, as all my peers are getting married now – was “do you ever throw weddings here?!” It was absolutely amazing, and we were all invited to sit in the orchard and enjoy a nice walnut-focused luncheon.
I mean, seriously. I got to eat lunch in a private orchard on an unseasonably warm day in Winters, CA, in October. How incredible is that?
The meal itself was lovely, very walnut-centric as was to be expected. I could describe what we were served, but why? You can’t have any 😛
The entire excursion was incredibly informative. While I’ve always enjoyed walnuts – and they make an appearance in at least two of my Christmas goodies this year (I participate in numerous cookie swaps, goodie giving, etc. during the holiday season – it’s the one time of year I bother to really bake) – I didn’t know all the health benefits that come with them.
For example, for all of my friends who are trying to get pregnant right now, eating 2.5 ounces per day has shown an increase in male fertility. I believe it was over the course of 2-3 months. They are also nutrient dense and heart healthy and all sorts of other awesome benefits to eating walnuts. Since I returned from the trip, I’ve been tossing walnuts in everything I eat: salads, pastas, soups, stuffing my pork chops with them, and of course, baked goods. Unless you have an allergy, there’s no reason not to chow down on these yummy nuggets of healthy morsels! Well, not too many at a time – they are very calorie dense, it’s true, so everything in moderation.
Thank you to the California Walnut Board & Commission for this informative and delicious tour!
Please note that I attended this event courtesy of California Walnuts. I received no monetary compensation to post about this event. All opinions expressed above are my own.