"With nuts we shall play,
Pesach is on its way,
Odd or even, what's your guess?
If you're right, you keep the rest."
This ditty, more or less, in Hebrew, reappears every year at
Pesach time, reminding us of the connection between Pesach
and walnuts. Huge sacks of walnuts can be seen for sale in
every Kosher l'Pesach outlet. Childen of all ages vie for the
nutcracker. Used as rewards for contributions to the
seder; for games, as in the above song; ground for use
in place of flour for Pesachdik baking, crushed into oil for
everyday use: where would Pesach be without walnuts,
egozei melech, the King of nuts, as they are called in
Walnuts have been recognized as one of the oldest tree foods
known to man. The walnut tree is found wild and cultivated
from China to Europe and North America in temperate zones
throughout the world.
The two most popular varieties are the English (also called
Persian) and the black walnut.
The term "English" refers to the English merchant marines
whose ships once transported the product for trade to ports
around the world. Historians prefer the name "Persian"
walnuts, referring to Persia, possibly the birthplace of the
Walnuts were first brought to California from Spain or
Mexico. The first commercial planting in the United States
began in 1867, when Joseph Sexton, an orchardist and
nurseryman in the Santa Barbara County town of Goleta,
planted English walnuts. For several years, walnuts were
predominantly planted in the the southern areas of
California, accounting for 65% of all bearing acreage. Some
70 years after Sexton's first planting, the center of
California walnut production moved northward to the Stockton
area in one of the most dramatic horticultural moves in
history. Better growing areas, improved irrigration, and
better pest control methods in the north resulted in greater
yields which gradually increase each year.
Today California produces 98% of the total U.S. commerical
crop, accounting for two thirds of the world's trade.
Botanists believe that walnuts from the regia species
were grown in Lebanon as well as Persia thousands of years
ago and in some parts of Gilad. Even today, walnut trees that
appear to be quite aged can be found in Israel, primarily in
the higher elevations and near water sources.
The English walnut is a massive tree, often reaching 100 feet
high, spreading its branches from trunks that can be six feet
thick on older trees.
English walnuts are the most widely available and come in
many varieties, some with moderately thick shells, others
with thinner shells. Walnuts are available all year round.
Walnuts in the shell should be free of cracks or holes.
Shelled walnuts should be plump and crisp. Walnuts in the
shell can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to 3 months.
Shelled nutmeats should be refrigerated, tightly covered, up
to 6 months. They may be frozen for up to a year. Walnuts are
delicious in a variety of sweet and savory dishes and baked
Walnut oil is often available with good supervision on
Pesach. It has a distinctive nutty flavor and fragrance.
Store in a cool, dark place for up to three months.
Refrigeration is best to prevent rancidity. It can be used in
salad dressings, sauces, main dishes and baked goods and for
WALNUT CHOCOLATE MERINGUES
3 egg whites
pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup good quality Dutch cocoa
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place egg whites and salt
in large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric beater or by hand
with a wire whisk until they form soft peaks. Gradually add
sugar so the peaks stiffen.
2. Sift cocoa over peaks and fold in with walnuts. Spoon
mounds about 1" in diameter and about 1 " apart onto a
parchment-lined baking sheet.
3. Bake 20 minutes or until dry to the touch. Let cool
completely before removing from baking sheet. Store in air-
PESACH CHOCOLATE HONEY WALNUT CAKE
1 cup walnuts
7 eggs, separated
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon water
1/2 cup potato starch
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup cake meal
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup honey
1. Heat oven to 300 F. Toast walnuts in flat pan in oven for
6 minutes; cool completely. Line bottom of ungreased 10 inch
tube pan with parchment paper. Coarsely chop walnuts.
Sprinkle evenly in prepared pan.
2. Beat egg yolks in large bowl until lemon-colored.
Gradually beat in 1 cup sugar. Stir in orange juice and
water. Combine potato starch, cocoa, cake meal and salt; fold
in yolk mixture. Mixture will be stiff.
3. Beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add remaining
sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold egg
white mixture into chocolate mixture. Pour into prepared
4. Bake 30 minutes. Without opening oven door, increase oven
temperature to 325 F. Bake an additional 15 minutes or until
top springs back when touched lightly. Remove from oven. Cool
in pan on wire rack for ten minutes.
5. Remove from pan; invert so walnuts are on top. Carefully
remove parchment paper. Spread softened honey over top of
Makes 12 to 16 servings.
With thanks to the Walnut Marketing Board of the California
Walnut Commission for some of the information in this