Originally published in Arthur No. 24 (September 2006)
THE NEW HERBALIST
By Molly Frances
Fall is here. Embrace the wisdom of the squirrel and gather up your nuts. We need them more than they do.
One of the most ancient of foods, walnut fossils have been found dating from the Neolithic period over 8,000 years ago. Rumors of the walnut groves in the hanging gardens of Babylon have been circulating for some time, and King Solomon is said to have often strolled among his walnut trees “into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley” (Song of Solomon 6:11).
In the Middle Ages, the “Persian” walnut became known as the “English” walnut as colonial-minded English sailors carted off loads of the nutty bounty and spread them about Europe, and eventually the “new world.”
Jupiter’s royal acorns, as the ancient Romans liked to call them, bear a suspicious resemblance to the human brain. That makes walnuts brain food in every sense of the word. They’re loaded with Omega 3 essential fatty acids, vitamin E, and minerals necessary for mental and heart health. It’s no coincidence that as our intake of omega 3s have decreased drastically, depression and heart disease have risen. Get this, slim jim: Your brain is 60% fat, and cell membranes will build themselves out of whatever fats are available. Omega 3s are the optimum choice, but most people fill up on omega 6s, found in polyunsaturated vegetable oils and animal products. An imbalance skewed towards Omega 6 fats are associated with inflamation, degenerative diseases, and mental disorders of all kinds, including increased violent activity. Sound like anyone you know?
Dr. Andrew Weil believes that the lack of Omega-3s in our diet is “the most serious nutritional deficiency we have in this country.” This deficiency is believed to be responsible for a wide range of diseases such as alzheimer’s, arthritis, ADD, diabetes, heart disease, PMS, and severe and manic depression. Omega 3 oils are found in oily fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and sea greens such as hijiki and kombu. They are essential for retinal function and vision, immunity, promoting good cholesterol, and cancer prevention.
Got the blues? Skip the sundae and go right to the nuts. Omega 3s stabilize moods and increase energy levels. They are also beauty oils, keeping skin youthful and glowing and hair soft and shiny. Get healthy and happy by replacing some of those 6s with 3s. How about a handful of walnuts as a snack or on a salad? How about some ground-up flax seeds? Why not? Let’s all learn how to cook up some delicious sea greens like Hijiki; it’s fun to say and more fun to eat.
Make certain to store shelled walnuts in the refrigerator (up to six months) to keep the oils from going rancid, as they can become carcinogenic. Chopped and ground nuts go bad more quickly than whole raw nuts. You can tell a bad bag of nuts by the smell – if they have the aroma of oil paint throw them away.
Enjoy a bag of organic raw walnuts or whole fresh walnuts from your local farmer’s market. Nothing says “I have arrived” like a big bowl of walnuts on your table and a nutcracker placed just so. You’ll have a potential moneymaker on your hands as well, playing the shell game with your friends. The increased walnut-fueled brain power is sure to benefit your sleight of hand.