I am a mega nerd for all things food process. The moment I get to see food or product growing I am running off the bus into the fields with my camera (Reference: please talk to everyone who came on the peanut tour with me when I saw a cotton field for the first time). There's something really special about seeing a food you have in your kitchen in the most real form. And that's coming from someone who grew up surrounded by farms and gardens. So I'm not just some city slicker fascinated by a potted plant. That's why when I do get the chance to travel and learn more about a food process, I am all in to learn and capture it for you .
This past weekend I headed to Sacramento California with California Walnuts for walnut harvest season! 99 percent of all walnuts grown in the US come from California. So if you want to experience harvest to packaging in under 3 minutes, definitely check out the video from my trip below.
In terms of Sacramento things, we stayed in the Citizen Hotel which is weirdly the most DC hotel I've ever seen. It belongs back home vs Sacramento. Everything is politically themed (also- amazing striped wallpaper). Beyond that we ate dinner at Hook and Ladder and Mulvaney's which are both apparently very Sacramento things to do.
The morning of the tour itself, we went to Barton Ranch which has I think 5 generations of walnut farmers. The processing plant had an amazing cross section slice of a 99 year old walnut tree, that unfortunately had to be taken down due to disease, with plotted points within the rings. Since the rings each mean a growing season or year within a cross section, they correlated to family photos during these 99 years. It was such a great idea.
But back to the walnut orchard: in short, it's beautiful. If you watch the video footage I took, it's just a Vogue shoot waiting to happen. The tree canopy is beautiful and they way the light filters through is a dream. Our tour started in a part of the orchard that was in the first phase of harvest which requires shaking the trees for the nuts to fall on the ground.
After the nuts are on the ground they are swept into rows and essentially sucked up in a giant vacuum and then carted to the huller (below) to remove the hull or outer part of the walnut.
After they're hulled and dried, they go to a processing plant where some amazing machinery cracks it perfectly, sorts it and it ends up in the store. Really, the person who came up with this process is a genius. It's so efficient.
Once these walnuts end up with you, they're typically purchased for culinary vs snacking purposes, at least in the US. In Asia they're loved as a snack nut. That being said, using walnuts as sauce thickeners, meat substitutes, or as a 'breading' on things is nothing to push aside. There are tons of ways to use walnuts.
The nutrition benefits walnuts provide are astounding. They're the only nut significantly high in omega 3 ALA's (2.5 grams per ounce) and have the highest polyphenol antioxidant levels among tree nuts. And okay, that's cool, but the fact of the matter is it really, really can effect your health. We listened to three research presentations and in the next year or so there are some amazing studies that will be published in terms of walnuts and cancer, cognition (specifically related to memory loss), heart health and weight. There's a biochemist out of West Virginia who is focusing on breast cancer and walnuts... I'm not sure how much I'm allowed to say about her ongoing research except...holy sh**. I'm eating walnuts from now on.
If you're inspired to start adding walnuts to your menu, you're in luck! We certainly love walnuts here:
Disclosure: Thank you to California Walnuts for bringing me along on this trip! I was not compensated for tweeting/Instagram-storying/blogging etc about this event.