Friday, October 19, 2007

Walnut varieties

Walnut varieties pictured beginning at top left is Livermore, Chandler; center is Franquette; bottom is Vina and Hartley.

A question we get asked a lot is do we grow Black walnuts or English walnuts. The answer is English walnuts, but there are many varieties of English walnuts. Walnut crops grown commercially in California are all English walnuts. Virtually all English walnuts grown in the United States are grown in Central and Northern California.

The main variety grown for sale in-shell has been Hartley, but a newer variety that is gaining in popularity is Howard. The Hartleys have a hard shell. They are about 40 percent nut meat to 60 percent shell. The Howards are a newer variety with a thinner shell and a bigger percentage of nut meat than Hartleys.

The most desirable variety for shelling is Chandler. They are a bigger thin shelled nut with a light colored meat. They crack out at about 50 percent nut meat to 50 percent shell. They are used a lot in candy making. Other varieties are also cracked out when they do not meet the standards for in-shell nuts.

Franquettes, technically known as Scharsch-Franquette, are used as pollinators for many varieties. They are also used as an in-shell nut like the Hartleys but tend to be a little smaller in size.

All nuts are graded by size and color. They are graded down for any shell defects, mold or bug damage.

Our orchard was planted about 50 years ago when the owner at that time choose the Hartley variety. Around 1980 rows of Vinas were planted in between the Hartley rows. At the time Vinas were thought to be better because they could be harvested earlier. Some problems showed up with that variety and now they are out of favor in this area. They originally were used as an in shell nut but now mostly go to be cracked out.

In the late 1980s the ranch was sold to a new owner. Sometime after that most of the Vinas were cut down, but the stumps were left. Then it was realized that production was also down. The Vina stumps were then grafted to Chandler as they were then becoming a popular variety. In 1993 we purchased the orchard.

Most commercial orchards are pulled out and replanted after 30 to 40 years. We have not been able to do that as it takes almost as much money to redo an orchard as it is to buy it. Our plan was to replace trees as they died out but there has not been the funds to do much of that either.

Just for fun we grafted several trees to a newer variety called Livermore. In that variety the nut meats all have red skins. So far it is not grown commercially because the red nut meats are darker and not desired. We like to use them at holidays on top of cakes, cookies and in salads.

To update those who want to know how harvest is going this year. It has turned out to be a rather trying year. We tried to hire help as our daughter was told she had to do jury duty. The help fizzled. Getting temporary farm help is next to impossible. The weather has also been too rainy to work in at times making things go even slower. To top things off this year’s crop going to be one of our smallest yet. It takes just as much work to harvest a large crop as a small crop.

The de-sticking machine has been a big help but it has taken time to learn how to use it. We talked about our de-sticking machine in our September 28 blog.

Now most can guess why they do not see or hear from us much at this time of year. Once harvest starts we go till it is done. Bad weather and equipment breakdowns are the only things we stop for.


Maury's said...

We love this one and the knowledge about the varietie's of Walnuts grown in California.

Lois of said...

Thank you,

The information is greatly appreciated about my 1st inquiry about walnuts. I am praying for a better future harvest.


HamsLife said...

As I grew up we farmed in Meridian, CA and walnuts was one of the crops we raised. We had mainly Blackmers but there were a few Mayetts and Franquette for pollinators.

I found your site while trying to research the origin of the Blackmer walnut though that was one variety you didn’t mention. Dad told me that the mother tree was a little south of Meridian but I have reasons to doubt the accuracy of that.

Any way I just wanted to say I enjoyed your article.