Friday, November 25, 2016

Black walnuts, once a rural 'poverty food', are gaining favor in upscale urban restaurants

Black walnuts are found in 32 states
(Atlas of United States Trees map)
Black walnuts, once an inexpensive way to spruce up Southern food, are showing up on dishes in fine dining establishments, Janet Patton reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. "Now, with local flavors once considered 'poverty foods' increasingly on the menu at even white-tablecloth restaurants, the lowly black walnut is worth adding to your holiday menu."

Lexington chef Mark Richardson uses black walnuts in a scallop dish, with butternut squash puree dressed with a black walnut vinaigrette and thinks they would work perfectly in turkey stuffing, Patton writes. Richardson told Patton, “I just think they are unique, unlike any other nut. They’ve got character and depth. Really earthy. The taste and the smell are similar and yet different. The smell is very fragrant but the flavor has more layers and changes as you eat them with sweet or savory tastes.”

Specialty Produce photo
Brian Hammons, president of Missouri-based Hammons Products, which buys about 23 million pounds of black walnuts in the hull annually, told Patton, “We’re seeing the food trends move in the direction that black walnuts really fit into. It is a food that has a great heritage in rural areas. People recall picking up nuts, grandma making a cake with them. And many people still have those roots even if they live in cities now. Others are interested in unique, wild and local foods and that all fits in with black walnut, too.”

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