The Walnut, known to the Roman's as The Royal Acorn

The Walnut, known to the Roman’s as The Royal Acorn

Dating back to 7000  BC the Walnut has a long and regal history. It is the Romans who are credited with introducing and spreading the graceful walnut tree throughout most of Europe. The name English Walnut is somewhat confusing, with its other name the Persian Walnut giving a better indication of its true origins.

Whilst walnuts were introduced by the Romans from Persia, our climate changes bringing shorter winters and more sunshine are now providing perfect growing and fruiting conditions for walnut and so the name English Walnut is now more befitting than ever. The common walnut, Juglans Regia will grow happily in reasonable sized garden as long as it is planted in a sheltered position. Walnut trees do not weather frost and love the sun. So always position them in a spacious plot that is protected from Spring frost.

Although squirrels are a nuisance for stealing the nut crop they are doing their bit for walnut tree preservation as their tendency to steal nuts, bury them and forget where they are, means that new woodlands are being created.

A pickled walnut is one of those wonderful British, culinary quirks. Walnuts for pickling are harvested in late June, when they are still green and they can also be picked for making walnut schnapps at this stage. If you want nuts though you’ll have to fight off competition from crows and squirrels and harvest them in October.

There is a phrase “A woman, a dog and a walnut tree; the harder they are beaten, the better they be”, which is believed to have originated from the Continent where long poles were used for harvesting nuts.

royalnut-2

Walnut Schnapps in the making

These long poles knocked down the nuts and the dead branches, making harvesting easier and also limiting the spread of fungal infections in the tree. The beating of the tree would also have stimulated late-summer shoot formation and would have aided nut production for the following year as the walnut flowers at the tips of stems formed the previous year.

According to Ancient Greek legend during the Golden Age, the Gods lived exclusively on walnuts, whilst mortal men lived on acorns.  The Romans named the walnut Juglans Regia which translates as Jupiter’s nut or Jupiters royal acorn, so the next time you decide to feast on walnuts you may want to adopt a royal pose.

For a walnut recipe that is fit for a queen Vin de Noix or Walnut wine is well worth the effort of making. It is rich, full bodied and will provide you with more warmth than a bear hug on a cold winter night.

Ingredients:

Green Walnuts: Pick them in June whilst they can still be pierced with a needle

Green Walnuts: Pick them in June whilst they can still be pierced with a needle

40 young  green walnuts that can be pierced with a darning needle, washed and quartered
1 litre brandy
5 litres red wine
1 kg  white sugar
10 walnut leaves
Zest of 1 sweet orange
8 cloves

Method:
1. Pick the walnuts in late June when the walnuts are well formed, but can still be pierced with a needle.  Wear gloves to quarter the walnuts as they release a stain that will dye your hands and any surface it come into contact with. Place all of the ingredients in an non-reactive container with a lid. Store in a cool dark place for 8 weeks, shaking every two days.
2. After eight weeks Strain the mixture through a sterilised cheesecloth into a bowl. Bottle and store in a cool dark place for a minimum of six months, meaning it is ready to enjoy in the winter.

After trying this deep, rich drink you will truly agree with the walnuts historical claim to eminence.

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About Seren Charrington-Hollins

Food has always been of great importance to Seren and despite her being renowned for her historical recipe recreations, her culinary skills were not honed, in the kitchens of top restaurants, but in the home kitchen from the age of being able to hold a wooden spoon. When Seren was born her mother was taken ill and so she spent her early years being cared for by her grandmother, Minnie. This was to prove instrumental in the development of Seren’s love of cooking, for her grandmother was an accomplished cook, who’s kitchen was always awash with terrine’s, home-made pastry and traditional puddings. Minnie’s love of good food and her zest for life meant Seren’s childhood was filled with days of hedgerow picking, baking, traditional preserving and cooking recipes from the depths of a family copy of, Mrs. Beeton. She learned from an early age how to make Victorian puddings alongside elaborate noble pies and perhaps this explains her love of pastry making and the reason she won an accolade from The Great British Pie Awards this year. Today Seren has great skill in bringing historical food to life and making it accessible and understandable to the modern cook and diner. Her enthusiasm and love of historical food and British cooking is evident in her presentations and she loves to revive forgotten recipes. She recently took part in ITV1’s Country House Sunday and has given live cookery demonstrations across the country at food festivals, historical houses and castles. Trained as a herbalist and nutritionist, she has a deep understanding of improving health through food. Her interest in historic remedies and herbal folklore eventually extended to researching British food history, and reignited her early passion for cooking. Fifteen years on and Seren has amassed extensive knowledge and is now renowned for her historical food recreations and interpretations. Seren’s interest in food history does not just extend to old recipes and cooking techniques, but to ingredients and manufacturers. From the age of fourteen Seren has collected food and drink packaging from early Victorian to the 1960’s. Her collection is now extensive and provides a wonderful snapshot in time that accompanies her vast knowledge of the development of British food and drink companies throughout history. She also has a huge collection of antique kitchenalia and moulds which she uses to replicate historical recipes and portray past eras. Her training in herbalism and nutrition has not been wasted for despite her merits as a food historian and period cook she also delights in creating British Classic dishes for those with food allergies and intolerances (such as gluten and dairy intolerant). Her botanical knowledge has made her a keen wild food educator and forager that lends unusual as well as historical twists to all her cooking. There are also many points at which food and medicine intertwine throughout history and Seren is able to portray these developments and has also undertaken a lot of research into the British spice trade. To Seren historical food is not a job, but a way of life. Visit Seren's blog: Serenity Kitchen