For which harvest is California known

Walnut growing and harvesting in California

The gardener Joseph Sexton planted the first walnut garden in California in 1867. There are now over 135,000 hectares of walnut plantations around the "Fruitbelt", the fruit belt in the Central Valley. These belong to more than 4,800 walnut growers. Most of the farms are privately owned and passed down from generation to generation. Many farmers therefore harvest the fruits of the trees that their grandparents and great-grandparents planted!

Walnut trees in the Central Valley

Walnut trees find ideal growth conditions in the Central Valley with its nutrient-rich, deep clay soils, over 300 days of sunshine a year and permanently mild temperatures. It takes five to seven years for them to bear plenty of fruit for the first time. For this they can be harvested for over 50 years! A walnut tree grows an average of 15 meters in height and has a broad, majestic crown 12 meters in diameter. There are around 4,000 nuts hanging from a single tree! There are over 30 different types of walnut in California, but the Hartley and Chandler varieties are mainly sold in Germany.

Sapling, shake yourself!

The walnut harvest takes place between August and November. When the green pods burst open, the nut kernel is ripe. For the harvest, there are large shaking machines that grab the trunk with their giant pincers and shake it so hard that the tree is harvested within seconds. The walnuts are then swept up in long rows and sucked up from the floor with a kind of giant vacuum cleaner.

From the tree to the plate

After the harvest, the largest walnuts are washed and brushed because they are intended for sale in their shells. However, 65 percent of California walnuts are sold cracked. To do this, the walnuts are pressed against the wall in a funnel and wedged until they crack open. Then they pass through a jet of air that blows away the large walnut shells. The smallest shell remains are finally sorted out with the help of a laser and manually, so that only the pure kernels remain. Whether in the shell or cracked: our walnuts are now ready to start their journey to Germany.