'English' walnuts: they may not exist, but they're good anyway

If you like English walnuts, this news won't change your opinion. But the ''English'' walnut is a actually a misnomer. It has never really existed, because the English don't grow walnuts commercially. It came about rather logically, however.

It all began when Persian walnuts, traded throughout southern Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, were sent around the world on English merchant ships.

When the ships arrived at port, the cargo was called English walnuts.

Today, more than three-quarters of the world supply of this mild, mellow nut - which we still call the English walnut - is grown in California, where walnuts were first introduced during the 1700s by Franciscan missionaries from Mexico by way of Persia.

A good walnut has a plump, meaty kernel with a full, rich flavor. But if you're buying whole walnuts it is difficult to tell what will be inside.

Check the whole ones to see that the seam is intact, since this seam protects the nut from outside and retains flavor. In-the-shell walnuts should be stored in a cool, dry place where they will retain their freshness for many months. They should not be shelled until ready for use.

Once shelled, store in a tightly sealed container and keep in the refrigerator.

Walnuts may also be purchased halved, coarsely chopped, finely chopped, or ground.

Studies show that cookies are the number one use of a long list of walnut sweets, although there is a growing use of them in main course dishes of chicken , meats and vegetables.

Here are some walnut recipes. Walnut Caramel Cookies 30 caramels 1/4 cup evaporated milk 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts 1/2 cup butter 3/4 cup brown sugar 1 egg 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled 2 cups flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 3/4 cup sour cream Caramel topping, recipe below

Melt caramels with evaporated milk over hot water. When smooth, stir in walnuts; let stand over hot water while mixing cookies.

Cream butter. Beat in brown sugar and egg. Stir in chocolate.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and soda.

Add flour mixture to batter alternately with sour cream; mix well. Stir in caramel-walnut mixture.

Drop teaspoonfuls onto well-greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F. about 12 minutes. Caramel Topping 36 caramels 6 tablespoons evaporated milk 4 to 5 dozen walnut halves

Melt caramels with evaporated milk over hot water. Blend until smooth and spoon a small amount on top of each warm cookie. Top with walnut halves. Makes 4 to 5 dozen cookies.

Chocolate Walnut Mounds

6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups walnut halves

Melt chocolate chips over hot water, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and beat until cool.

Stir in walnuts. Drop in clusters on waxed paper.

The cost of walnuts dropped recently because of a large walnut crop, the third consecutive year of above-average yields.

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