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Tough NUT

Though walnuts are calorie rich, they contain omega-3, which promotes cardiovascular health


ROASTED OR raw, walnuts are energy-dense, nutritious and delicious. And tough nuts to crack open. While the common Persian (aka Carpathian or English) walnut yields easily to firm finger pressure, the black walnut can require hammer blows to crack it open.

The nut is native to Persia, but walnut fossils lie scattered all over Europe, some of them in Neolithic settlements in Switzerland dating back to 6000 BC. However, earliest written mentions are of the walnut groves of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, circa 2000 BC, described in the famous Chaldean clay tablet inscriptions.

The Code of Hammurabi that followed 200 years later mentions it while speaking of food laws. And of course, anybody who has read Aesop knows the fable about the walnut tree

A Walnut Tree standing by the roadside bore an abundant crop of fruit. For the sake of the nuts, the passers-by broke its branches with stones and sticks. The walnut tree piteously exclaimed, "O wretched me! That those whom I cheer with my fruit should repay me with these painful requitals!"

The walnut's official botanical name means "The royal acorn of Jupiter." It was the Roman symbol of fertility. The Greeks and Romans and the early Christians believed the tree could shelter witches. The brain-like shape of the walnut made it popular in all kinds of folk cures from headaches to seizures.

Walnuts and walnut oil are popular salad ingredients the world over. During the Victorian age, pickled nuts were the ideal companion for an Englishman's beer. The Italians use green walnuts to make nocino, an alcoholic drink.

The Egyptians used the oil as an embalming agent; the French use it in religious rites. It is also an exotic paint medium. Black walnut wood is hard and durable and is ideal for making furniture that last for generations.

It is so tough that it was the material of choice for gunstocks and aircraft propellers during WW I. The bark and hulls yield dye and ink. Powdered shells have many industrial uses: drill sharpeners, cosmetics, aircraft polishes and thermal insulation packs ...all make use of this powder.

Hundred grams of walnut seed contains nearly 650 calorie with nearly 64 grams being fat. The fats and calories mean that it is unwise to eat it in large amounts, but the fat's high omega-3 content means that a few spoonfuls per day promote cardiovascular health by lowering the blood levels of LDLs (bad cholesterol). The oil contains nearly 900 calories per 100 ml.

The nuts and oil are rich in vitamin E. The green fruit is exceptionally rich in Vitamin C- containing nearly 20 mg of the vitamin per gram of the fruit flesh. Walnuts are common in old European folk remedies for cancer, syphilis, impotence, asthma and backache. Unfortunately, none of them has any basis in credible science.

RAJIV M

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