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Juglans regia, the common or Persian walnut, is native to western Asia. Introduced to the Mediterranean basin before the first century BC, it became an important food in many regions and was also grown for timber. Walnuts reached Britain in the sixteenth century. They are slow growing, making trees up to 15-25m eventually with aromatic, pinnate foliage and silvery bark. The fruits have a green husk around the nut, enclosing the distinctive wrinkled kernel.
Walnuts will grow throughout Britain, but do best on fertile and sheltered sites. They prefer a heavy, moist soil and are hardy but can be damaged by frost.
Dig a hole a little deeper than the root pack and twice as wide. Back-fill with a little peat and bonemeal or compost. Remove the bag and place the root in the hole, no deeper than where the bag ended. Back-fill the hole and firm the soil well down. Water if dry, and remember to check this regularly during the first season.
Walnuts must be pruned only in autumn as they bleed in the spring. Minimal pruning is required, but branches become large so remove any badly positioned ones early on.
The nuts ripen in mid-autumn. They should fall naturally from the tree so that all you have to do is come along and pick them up. Shaking branches or beating the tree will help obstinate nuts to fall.
When the nuts have been gathered, remove the husks as soon as possible. Wear rubber gloves, otherwise your hands will be stained dark brown! Slit the husks all round with a small sharp knife and gently prize them apart to leave the bare shells.
Lay the nuts to dry on several layers of newspaper, in a warm sunny room for about three days, turning them several times. After this they are delicious to eat. To store your nuts, layer them in a box with dry sawdust or tightly screwed up newspaper, together with a liberal sprinkling of rock salt.