Nuts that come with a cracking philosophy

Walnuts are healthy, delicious and even have a mystical significance.

By Ruth Joseph, February 18, 2010
Versatile walnuts can be used in salads, cakes or as a stuffing for fish

Versatile walnuts can be used in salads, cakes or as a stuffing for fish

These delicious nuts that are so adaptable, enriching sweet and savoury dishes, hold a story about a fascinating, complicated ideology. You will never look at a walnut in the same way again.

Kabbalists think that there are four worlds or states of God’s creation. They comprise of azilut — emanation; beriah — creation; yetzirah — actual formation; and assiyah — action, our world of material realism.

The first world of azilut is totally mystical and cannot be represented in any form. But ten fruits that have neither stone nor shell represent beriah. These include figs, raspberries and blueberries. Yetzirah fruits have stones inside; for example, dates, cherries and olives. Finally, there is assiyah, represented by the walnut. Like our psyches, it has an outside shell which, when opened, reveals the tender nut inside. So the walnut is seen as a motif for the world as we know it.

In order to reach the inside kernel, or the true essence of a holy and good life, we must remove certain layers of armour considered by kabbalists as enveloping another four mystical seams: fraudulence and self-misrepresentation; bigotry; inertia and apathy; and the veils of custom and tradition. We have to remove all these before we can understand ourselves and progress. And the walnut represents the theory that we are encased in layers of dishonesty and self-deception which have to be destroyed in order to improve.

There are also those who see the shape of the walnut as being similar to the lobes of the brain. And from a gematria point of view, the walnut is wrapped up with the number 17, which can also be seen as the Hebrew for sin.

These delicious nuts may represent sin to some but to others they are a godsend. In April 2009, it was reported that eating walnuts may help to prevent breast cancer. The theory, presented by the American Association for Cancer Research, was that “Mice fed the human equivalent of 2oz (56.7g) of walnuts per day developed fewer and smaller tumours… and although the study was performed on mice, the beneficial effects of walnuts were likely to apply to humans too.” They ascribe the nut’s success to the omega 3 fatty acids, “which played a key role” in this study.

The British Nutrition Foundation added that, “evidence for nuts reducing the risk of heart disease was currently stronger than it was for their anti-cancer properties”. They felt that the fatty acids in nuts were “predominantly good” unsaturated fatty acids but also they contained other “bioactive compounds such as phytosterols and flavenoids. These were ineffective unless combined with a healthy diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables.

Whatever the beliefs of medical science, it is wonderful to know that enjoying walnuts can improve a healthy diet. Include them in salads; grate or thinly slice fennel, organic carrots and chopped celery, adding walnuts. Toss in a light vinaigrette of olive oil and lemon juice with maybe some chopped, stoned dates for a wonderful waldorf salad with huge health benefits.

Mix ground, toasted walnuts with a few wholemeal breadcrumbs, the rind and juice of an orange and chopped coriander or parsley and stuff a whole trout or mackerel before baking. A simple flapjack, muffin or crumble mixture can be enriched with the addition of a handful of chopped walnuts. Try adding some to your breakfast cereal or mix into couscous or rice for flavourful nutrition.

Makes 25 -30 cookies

● 6oz margarine
● 6oz soft brown sugar – Fair-trade if poss.
● 3 tablespoons Golden Syrup
● 8oz plain flour
● 1½ teasp bicarb.
● 7 oz rolled oats
● 2 oz processed, toasted walnuts
● 2 oz processed stem or crystallised ginger
● The juice and rind of 1 large lemon

Melt marg, brown sugar and golden syrup in a large saucepan. Leave to cool. Sieve the bicarb with the flour. Add the rest of the ingredients and the melted mixture. Drop well-spaced, heaped teaspoons of mixture onto baking parchment-lined tins allowing plenty of space to spread. Bake on gas mark 4,180C, 350F for approx 20 mins, or until golden. They will harden on cooling.

Last updated: 3:28pm, February 18 2010