Do you have memories of cracking open nuts at Christmas time? We always had big bowls of nuts along with a nutcracker on hand during the entire Christmas season, which lasts until January 6, incidentally, but don’t get me started! Well, I will start. There are 12 days of Christmas and I have made it a personal mission to celebrate all 12 days until Epiphany (January 6th), otherwise known as Twelfth Night in Tudor and Elizabethan times.
Nuts were a family staple in my childhood home all year long. They were always served as dessert, along with fruit and cheese. But they rose to a new level of importance at Christmastime. We always found a few, along with an orange, in the bottom of our stockings. And family and friends cracked nuts while sitting and visiting. There were special tools for this purpose. We never had one of the fancy nutcrackers resembling the character in Tchaikovsky’s ballet, although we always listened to the soundtrack at Christmas. We had a silver hand-held wedge-like contraption and special tools for picking out remnants, especially from walnuts.
All nuts are healthy, especially when they are raw and organic, but walnuts hold a special place of honour when it comes to our health. In a Yale University Prevention Research Center Study, 100 people at increased risk of developing diabetes due to obesity, elevated blood sugar or elevated blood pressure, who ate 2 ounces of walnuts for six months, showed improvements in blood vessel wall (epithelial) function, lower levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, and Improvements in blood pressure and body fat.
The wonderful walnut contains the amino acid l’arginine, the omega 3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the unique and powerful antioxidant quinone juglone, the tannin tellimagrandin, and the flavonol morin. These antioxidants are cognitive-enhancing, anti-aging, scientifically acclaimed “remarkable” free-radical scavengers. In various promising animal studies, consumption of walnuts has reduced prostate and breast cancer growth. Walnut consumption in humans has improved cholesterol profiles and cardiovascular health, improved male fertility, increased weight loss, decreased blood sugar, and improved brain health.
It is important to eat the skins, which contain 90% of the walnut’s antioxidants. It is also important to eat them fresh, which makes buying them in the shell and cracking them as they are eaten, so smart. Freshly shelled organic walnuts should be stored them in the fridge. Although I have never personally done this, soaking shelled walnuts in water overnight is highly advisable to reduce their naturally occurring enzyme inhibitors and phytic acid. They can then be drained, sprinkled with sea or Himalayan salt and roasted in a 110 to 120 degree Fahrenheit oven to the desired level of crunchiness.
I have not really continued my childhood Christmas nut tradition, but all of that is changing. I purchased some organic walnuts at the Farmer’s Market and just need to hunt down a nutcracker during my post-Christmas shopping expeditions. Although this isn't the original purpose of Boxing Day (which was to box up leftovers to distribute to the needy), it works. Perhaps I will find one of those Tchaikovsky-like ones!
After the typical high-sugar consumption of the first day of Christmas (December 25th), why not celebrate the second day of Christmas, aka Boxing Day, by bringing back the grand Christmas tradition of cracking open walnuts with family and friends and improving your health simultaneously? This is much more beneficial, not to mention achievable, than the alternative of obtaining 2 turtledoves.