California Walnuts

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California Walnut is the premier walnut in the world.

The Central Valley offers mild climate and deep fertile soils ideal for growing conditions for the California walnut. California walnuts account for 99 percent of the commercial US supply and three-quarters of world trade.

  • California produces more than 99% of the U.S. commercial supply of walnuts.
  • California produces 75% of the world supply of walnuts.
  • Walnuts are claimed to now rank 4th in California crops, according to CA Walnut Commission.
  • There are more than 4,000 walnut growers in California.

California walnut is well known as the top quality walnut for the world. Many of today's improved cultivars are descendants of early mission plantings. Luther Burbank is credited with early research in California walnut cultivation.

California walnut history: The walnut was first cultivated in California by the Franciscan Fathers in the late 1700s. The earliest walnuts to enter California were known as "mission" walnuts. Unlike today's walnuts, these first entries were small with hard shells.

For several years, walnuts were predominantly planted in 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 Central Valley area in one of the most dramatic horticultural moves in history.

The trees flourished in the Mediterranean-like climate zones of California, and by the 1870s modern walnut production had begun with orchard plantings in southern California, near Santa Barbara.

In the next 70 years the center of California's walnut production shifted with successful plantings in the central and northern parts of the state.

The first commercial plantings began in 1867 when Joseph Sexton, an orchardist and nurseryman in the Santa Barbara County town of Goleta, planted English walnuts. Better growing areas, improved irrigation, and better pest control methods in the north resulted in greater yields, which gradually increased each year.

Walnut History: The Royal Nut Walnuts are the oldest tree food known to man, dating back to 7000 B.C. The Romans called walnuts Juglans regia, "Jupiter's royal acorn."

English walnuts likely came from ancient Persia, where they were reserved for royalty. Thus, the walnut is often known as the Persian Walnut. Walnuts were traded along the Silk Road route between Asia and the Middle East. Caravans carried walnuts to far off lands and eventually through sea trade, spreading the popularity of the walnut around the world. English merchant marines transported the product for trade to ports around the world and they became known as "English Walnuts." England, in fact, never grew walnuts commercially. The outer shell provided a natural protective layer helping to maintain the quality of the nut.

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