If you look closely at the shape of a walnut, you will find it resembles a human brain. The ancient Chinese didn’t think this to be a coincidence, as the walnut has immensely powerful medicinal properties, especially when it comes to the brain—it is supposed to prevent memory loss and mental fatigue. In addition, it is also beneficial for bones, marrow, blood, kidney and cardiovascular health. No wonder then, the walnut was called the food of the gods.
The origins of the walnut, or the English walnut as it is commonly known, are not quite English. Although there is much speculation about its origins, ancient Romans, who introduced it to the rest of the world, believed that it came from Iran, in fact the entire Central Asian belt. The English moniker was perhaps because English travellers introduced it to the US, which today is the second largest producer of walnuts, after China.
Turkey ranks third and India, fourth. The major walnut-growing areas in India are Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and the North-East.
Gamma-tocopherol, the type of vitamin E found in walnuts, is particularly beneficial for cardiovascular health. It is said to provide significant protection from heart problems.
Controls metabolic syndrome
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of walnut make it a great tool to fight metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular problems and type 2 diabetes. These qualities also decrease the risk of certain kinds of cancers, such as those of the prostate and breast.
Walnuts are a rich source of healthy-for-heart monounsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids, which reduce triglyceride levels and help maintain normal blood pressure and heart function.
Eat it this way
Wilted spinach and walnut cream soup
• 500g spinach
• 100g walnuts
• 10g garlic, chopped
• 25g onion, chopped
• 15g leeks, chopped
• 15g celery, chopped
• 10g thyme
• 10ml olive oil
• 5g butter
• 50ml cream
• 100ml vegetable stock
• Salt, to taste
• Pepper, to taste (optional)
Pick and wash the spinach under cold running water. Strain and chop roughly. Toast the walnuts and chop roughly. Heat the olive oil and butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion, sauté for a while and add the chopped leeks, celery and thyme. Add about 90g walnuts and sauté further. Increase the flame and add the spinach and sauté till it appears wilted. Add the stock and simmer gently for 3-4 minutes. Strain and blitz in a blender to a smooth purée. Finish with the cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with sliced walnuts and serve.
Nutty flavour: The soup garnished with walnuts
—Chef Rajdeep Kapoor, executive chef, ITC Maratha, Mumbai.