Warm goats cheese with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkling of walnuts. The perfect combination of ingredients. Delicious on a pizza, perfect with salad, or even just as the raw product themselves – ideal to nibble on throughout the evening, particularly when accompanied by a glass of two of France’s finest.
It is our intention that at some point in our lifetime, we will be able to produce all these foods ourselves. Goat herding has long been on the list of things to do (I blame Heidi for this), and beekeeping has been a growing interest, not least since learning more about how this vital player in the food chain is at extreme risk.
Walnuts, however, are a different story. They may be the oldest tree food in history, dating back to 7,000 BC, but they are new to us.
Noyer, as they are called here, are in plentiful supply. France is the 9th largest producer of walnuts in the world, turning out 36,425 tonnes in 2012 (nothing in comparison to China which produced 1.7m tonnes that year). However, that doesn’t mean they’re cheap. Just like in the UK, nuts are expensive so, in our house at least, they are not enjoyed as much as we would like.
Which is a shame, as besides being very tasty, they are also full of omega-3s, vitamin E and phenols that are good for the skin, phytonutrients that help prevent against cancer. (They’re also quite calorific but we can overlook that considering all the other benefits!)
So, I was delighted to establish that it is indeed walnuts growing behind our house (thanks to Lyn, the nut detective). Since then I’ve been doing a little more research into how they should be harvested.
Walnuts fall when they are ready. Sadly by the time I keep getting to them, bugs and other creatures have already had a go on quite a few of them, or they have turned brown and a bit soft. So far I have just two nuts. Hardly a salad doth that maketh! Think I’m going to have to make it a regular daily activity to have a scout around on the floor under the trees looking for suspects.
A tough nut to crack
The green outer layer of the walnut has a sweet, almost citrus smell to it, and it’s hard, really bloody hard. One website I found suggested driving a car back and forth over the top of them to crack them. Clearly I am stronger than that particular author because I’ve found it’s much less hassle to just put a bit of pressure on them and roll them around on the kitchen work surface.
That said, peeling the green outer layer off isn’t easy. Perhaps mine aren’t quite ripe, but it took a knife and a great deal of patience to get all the green flesh off them. Apparently, if they develop fungus they can be carcinogenic so it’s very important to make sure the shells are clean and dry. I don’t want to go to all this effort only to have to throw them away. I must find a better – quicker – way of cleaning them otherwise I am going to tire of this quite rapidly. Any suggestions most welcome!
The instructions provided by the Royal Horticultural Society then say that the nuts should be dried in a cool oven of no more than 40°C (104°F). It seems a waste of energy to do that just for two nuts. Wikihow reckons they can be dried out in the open air, and given that the Romans were unlikely to have put their nuts in an oven (fnarr fnarr!), I’m going to give that option a go.
Will keep you posted – although I don’t think Super U will need to worry about the loss of business from us just yet.