…I stand in the dark for a long time
under the walnut tree, unable
to tell anyone, not even the night,
what I know…
By Lynn Martin
The English Walnut, the Common Walnut, the Persian Walnut, or the Royal Walnut are all variant names for one tree and its fruit that grows from the Balkans east to the Himalayas and southwest into China! It is not native to England at all, which the common name wal-nut reflects, as wal is Germanic for foreign.
In ancient Rome they were considered ‘food of the Gods,’ and were named for the god Jupiter (Jupiter’s glans being Jupiter’s acorn). The walnut is also associated with Juno, the goddess married to Jupiter, who is goddess of women, and marriage. This association to both God and Goddess led to an odd wedding practice of throwing walnuts at the new couple to ensure fertility! In fact in Poitou, France it was the custom for the new bride and her groom to dance around the large walnut tree there to ensure she produced copious amounts of breast milk for their children!
The earliest written record of walnut use is from the Chaldeans who left accounts on clay tablets of the orchards of English Walnut that were in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The earliest cultivation of the walnut is credited to the Greeks who used walnuts for food, medicine, and dye for the hair, wool and cloth.
The Walnut has a long history of use in the field of herbal medicine. The nut, the bark and the leaves are astringent, laxative, purgative, styptic, vermifuge, and hepatic. It has been used to cause sweating, treat diarrhea, and treat sore gums, herpes, and swollen tonsils. The hulls were used to treat head lice, body lice, herpes, parasites, liver problems, and skin issues. A tea was made from the leaves to treat boils, eczema, hives, ulcers, and other sores. The nut was used to prevent weight gain, reduce cholesterol, calm anxiety and hysteria, treat morning sickness and to generally strengthen the whole of the body.
The walnut has also been used extensively for food. It is high in protein, Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and E, folic acid, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. 3 Tablespoons of walnut oil will also provide all your daily need of Omega 3 fatty acids! The nut can be eaten out of hand, but the flavor improves with light roasting. It is often included in confections like candy, cakes and cookies. They can also be added to salads, meat dishes and stir fries. The oil can be drizzled over salads or steamed vegetables. The nut has also been powdered and a nut ‘milk’ made from it to increase the nutritional value for invalids.
The hull and leaves have been used to make dye stuff for centuries. A dark brown dye that is used for wool and hair is obtained from the leaves and mature hulls. If the dye is made in an iron pot the dye becomes black. The green hulls provide a yellow dye. Both types of dye required no mordant due to the high tannic acid content.