There are two distinct types of walnuts, and they are very different from one another. It’s quite interesting to compare and contrast them because in many aspects they are opposites. Their historical and current uses, flavor profile, shells, and wood are some examples of this.
English walnuts are actually from Iran, and got their name because they were first brought to world markets by English merchants. The Greeks used selective breeding to create walnuts with larger nuts, giving us the walnuts we have today. Black walnut trees originate from eastern North America and were used by Native Americans and English settlers for wood. Chandler Orchids, a great resource for information about walnuts, explains, “Today black walnut wood is used extensively in flooring, furniture, coffins, and even gun stocks.”
Consumers prefer the flavor of English walnuts to black walnuts, and for this reason, it’s hard to find black walnuts in grocery stores. Black walnuts are higher in fat and protein than English walnuts. English walnuts are commonly used in baking and cooking, while black walnuts are most often used in extracts for industrial buyers.
English walnuts have a soft and thin shell, making them easy to crack. In contrast, black walnut shells are so hard, they’re used in sand blasting to clean ships and jet engines. English walnuts are easy to remove from their shells, while black walnuts are much more difficult, not to mention, they can stain your hands.
Black walnut trees are known for their hard and grooved wood. It’s great for timber because the trees are fast growing. English walnut trees grow much more slowly and the bark is soft and smooth. Both types of walnuts fall in autumn, making this the perfect time to harvest them.
“English Walnuts vs Black Walnuts – What’s the Difference?”, Chandler Orchards
“How to Harvest English Walnuts”, The Spruce Eats
“Harvesting Black Walnut Trees: When Do Black Walnuts Fall?, Gardening Know How