Common name: English walnut, Persian walnut
Botanical name: Juglans nigra
Family: Juglandaceae (Walnut)
Worldwide distribution: Native to Central Asia and Southern Europe, now widely naturalised in Europe.
Local distribution: Widely planted and sometimes naturalised throughout southern Britain.
Habitat: Parks and cultivated areas.
Foraging season: Nuts early summer and early autumn.
Contrary to what its name suggests, English walnut is not a native tree to England and actually feels at home in the warm, fertile regions of Southern Europe and Central Asia. The tree does not usually grow wild in the UK and Ireland, but it’s been planted in farms, parks and gardens, occasionally gone feral.
The nuts are covered by a hard green husk that will stain your hands badly and gloves are completely necessary. Harvest them when fully ripe and dry in early autumn, as soon as the husks start to split and fall down.
Walnuts are a very popular snack, either raw, toasted, candied or covered in chocolate. Pair walnuts with blue/goat cheese, yoghourt, honey, pears or dried figs. They can be added to both sweet and savoury dishes: add to granola, cakes and biscuits or toss into salads.
The unripe bright green husk can be used to create a traditional English pickle, which doesn’t seem to be very popular these days: pickled walnuts. The Italian liqueur nocino is also made of unripe walnuts and it’s served as a digestive.