Origin and History
When in the Old Testament, King Solomon says, “I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruit of the valley” (Song of Solomon 6:11), he was talking about his walnut grove. Indeed, many ancient cultures cultivated and celebrated walnuts. In ancient Persia, where their cultivation may have originated, walnuts were the food of royalty.
Walnut groves existed within the Hanging Gardens of Babylon around 2,000 B.C. in Mesopotamia. And the ancient Greeks and Romans traded walnuts and incorporated them into their mythology, associating them with fertility.
The “Persian” walnut became known as the “English” walnut during the Middle Ages, when English sailors carried and traded them throughout Europe and beyond. Walnuts first came to California via Spanish Franciscan missionaries. In the 1870s, California walnut agriculture took off with large orchards in Southern California near Santa Barbara. Later, mass production moved north to California’s Central Valley.
Walnut trees thrive in the hot, dry summers and mild winters of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, which also boast deep, rich soil ideal for walnut growing. Add to these factors growers’ constant attention to pruning, fertilizing and irrigating, and it’s no wonder California walnuts taste so delicious!
Walnuts are full of healthy benefits: they are a great source of protein and fiber and contain significant amounts of thiamin, vitamin B6, folacin and vitamin E. Other mineral value comes from iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.