Photo by AndonicO
It’s the time of year when we eat most nuts – roast chestnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts. The latter are some of the oldest nuts to be harvested by humans. Walnuts are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. They are also beneficial in preventing coronary heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
However the walnut tree (Juglans regia) has many more uses. The wood is used for everything from the dashboards on Jaguar sports cars to furniture. The crushed shells can be used to clean runway lights at airports and NASA has even used them as insulation for the nose-cones of their spacecraft. Walnut oil can be used in cooking but the Ancient Egyptians preferred to use it to embalm their mummies.
Walnut trees are beneficial even if you don’t cut them down or harvest8 the nuts. Their leaves produce a toxic vapour that drives away flies. Walnut trees also produce a chemical weapon, juglone, to protect themselves against other plants. This can be used by humans as a natural herbicide.
Walnut trees are native to southern Europe and Asia and this explains their name in English and other Germanic languages; ‘walnut’ means “foreign nut”.
With all these uses, it is not surprising that walnuts are associated with fertility. A good harvest of walnuts in France traditionally means that many children will be born. The English associates walnuts with testicles (referred to as “one’s nuts” in playground parlance). By contrast, Jungian psychology associates dreaming of walnuts with female genitalia. Either way, in Ancient Rome bride and groom were pelted with walnuts to ensure their fertility. However, even if children are desired, I recommend you stick to rice or confetti!
 nut – the edible oily kernel of a fruit with a hard shell
 roast – (in this case) baked, made edible by heating
 chestnut – the edible nut of the chestnut tree (Castanea dentata)
 hazelnut – spherical brown nut of the hazel tree (Corylus avellana)
 almond – edible kernel of the almond tree (Prunus amygdalus)
 walnut – see photo
 the latter – the last mentioned, (in this case) walnuts
 to harvest – gather, collect
 fatty acid – carboxylic acid occurring in edible oils
 to prevent – stop
 dashboard – panel containing the instruments and controls of a vehicle
 furniture – tables, chairs etc.
 crushed – smashed, broken up, triturated
 shell – hard outer covering
 runway light – illumination for aeroplanes that are taking off or landing
 insulation – protective material that isolates sth. from extreme temperatures
 nose-cone – front
 spacecraft – vehicle for travelling through outer space
 leaves – foliage
 (house)fly – (Musca domestica) type of flying insect
 chemical weapon – (in this case) defensive chemical substance
 walnoot in Dutch, valnød in Danish, valnöt in Swedish and valnøtt in Norwegian
 good harvest – abundant collection, copious yield
 playground parlance – the language of schoolchildren
 bride – woman who is getting married
 (bride)groom – man who is getting married
 to be pelted with sth. – have sth. thrown at you
 to stick to sth. (stick-stuck-stuck) – only use sth., limit oneself to sth.