The walnut is either a fruit or a deciduous tree. We know best the fruits, i.e. the nuts. In Switzerland they are called “tree nut”, in Austria, they are called “Welschnuss”. That means: It came from the Romans, i.e. from Italy or France.
There are different types of walnut trees. Together they form a genus. They grow to about 20 meters in height and can live for about 150 years. They form very deep roots. When they stand alone, a very large crown also grows, which is what all the branches with the twigs are called. The flowers are either male or female. Many of them hang together on a small stalk, forming something like a small sausage.
In Europe almost only one special type is planted, the “real walnut”. Their kernels are large, very nutritious, and healthy. Their oil is popular in the kitchen and does not soot when burned in an oil lamp. The wood of the walnut tree is the finest in Europe.
Most of our walnut trees were planted as fruit trees. When they reach a certain age, they are dug up and the wood is used to make expensive furniture.
What do people use from the walnut tree?
On the one hand, the nuts of the walnut tree are used. Today’s trees are bred to produce as many nuts as possible. With a tree in its prime and in a good location, this can be over 50 kilograms a year together with the shells.
We eat many walnut kernels just like that after drying. We know them mainly from the time before Christmas. The shells are so hard that you need a nutcracker to open them. Walnut kernels are also found in ice cream, cakes, and in many other dishes.
Oil from walnut kernels is not only popular in the kitchen. It burns in an oil lamp without soot. It is therefore considered the noblest of all lamp oils. It is still used today in many Catholic churches, in the small, red lamp, the “eternal light”.
On the other hand, the wood of the walnut tree is also used. It has a very beautiful, dark brown color. Walnut trees are not felled, they are dug up together with the roots. In the lowest part of the trunk, the wood has a special grain, which is also called a “wood pattern”.
Only particularly noble and expensive furniture is made from walnut wood. Usually not all the boards are made of walnut wood. The core of the boards is often made from cheap chips that have been glued together. A thin layer of walnut wood is glued to this, usually only a millimeter thick. Such thin wood coatings are called “veneer”. This saves a lot of expensive wood.
The third option is to use the outer green shells of the nuts. You can use it to color other wood or, for example, textiles. Anyone who has ever removed the outer shell of a walnut knows how yellow your hands are afterward. In the tanneries, the shells are used to make leather from animal skins.