When it starts getting cold and the temperature drops, walnuts become a staple in most diets, usually in the fall months. You might find your walnut tree dropping fruit everywhere when it gets colder.
Of course, you cannot let this fruit go to waste, right? You will have to pick these beauties up and consume them as soon as possible.
However, once you start cracking these walnuts, you might find that some of them are bitter.
Is this normal? Have the walnuts gone bad? Can you still consume them? Are there any health complications from eating bitter walnuts?
Let’s find out.
Why Do Walnuts Taste Bitter?
Have you ever noticed the color of walnuts? They are naturally covered with brown skin. Their skins are loaded with tannins, an antioxidant that naturally tastes bitter (1). Some walnuts grow with more tannins than others, but this is not necessarily bad. To tone down the bitterness of your walnuts, you can simply get rid of their skins.
Another reason behind bitter walnuts could be their age – the older the walnuts are and the longer they have been since they fell off the tree, the more bitter they will become.
Remember that it is typical for walnuts to be slightly bitter, but extremely bitter walnuts should not be consumed because they might be going rotten and becoming rancid. If you find that your walnuts are too bitter to consume, it would be best to throw them in the trash.
Walnuts also absorb scents from their surroundings.
This means that if you do not store your walnuts correctly, they could go bad sooner. Hence, keep your walnuts in an airtight container so that you can consume them for extended periods.
How to Get Rid of Walnut Skin
The skins of walnuts can be removed easily. The end product will be a delicious, non-bitter walnut you will enjoy consuming. Even though walnuts taste great on their own, cooking them helps cut out the natural bitterness they come with.
Blanching or roasting walnuts are two effective ways to get rid of walnut skin. However, these methods should not be used for raw, fresh walnuts as their skins are usually stuck to the nut, which means that they will not peel off easily.
1. Blanching Walnuts
If you want to blanch the walnuts, take a pot of water and put it on the stove. Allow the water to boil. Once it has started to boil, carefully throw in some cracked walnuts. Remember to be gentle, so you do not end up splashing hot water everywhere.
Allow the walnuts to simmer in hot water for a minute, and then take them out onto a plate. Put them in the oven, so they dry faster if you are in a hurry. You can also cook them until all the water is evaporated and you are left with perfectly dry walnuts.
You will find that the skins of your walnuts can come off easily once they are dry. If you try this when the walnuts are wet, you will find that the skin sticks to your fingers – not a pleasant feeling.
2. Roasting Walnuts
If you choose to roast your walnuts, start by preheating the oven to the highest temperature. Put the cracked walnuts in a baking dish covered with baking paper. The walnuts need to be placed in a single layer. Put the tray in the oven and slowly turn the heat down to low.
Keep your walnuts in the oven for 5 minutes, then flip them over and let them roast in the oven for another 3 minutes. A quick tip to ensure that you do not burn the walnuts is to keep an eye out for a color change. If you find that your walnuts are starting to become dark brown and bordering on black, you have to let them stay in the oven for too long.
Once the walnuts have been roasted, cool them completely before attempting to touch them. Then, get a clean paper towel and rub the walnuts in the towel against each other. The oil on the walnut should help the skin come off with ease.
Whether you choose to blanch or roast your walnuts, keep in mind that the skins will not come off entirely. You may find some pieces of skin stuck to the walnuts here and there, especially in the folds and curves.
Your walnuts will still taste significantly better than they did with the skin on.
Why You Should Not Consume Walnuts that Taste Overly Bitter
A range of benefits come with including walnuts in your everyday diet (2). They are known to be tiny nutrient bombs that provide instant energy.
Walnuts make excellent snacks between meals to keep you full and satisfied. Several traditional dishes also use nuts as their main ingredients.
However, there is a substantial disadvantage when it comes to consuming nuts. Unlike other food items, when mold develops on nuts, the human eye cannot see it. The only indications are the extremely bitter taste that your walnuts may develop, along with a foul smell, showing that the walnuts are not inedible and should not be consumed.
Mold infestations can occur on all kinds of nuts. Unfortunately, this mold cannot be seen by the human eye. This is especially true for imported nuts as these do not always have the best storage conditions, increasing the risk of mold growth. These molds that we cannot see are known as mycotoxins. Like all other molds, these bring about many health problems if ingested.
Along with the risk of mold growth, walnuts purchased from the store are also contaminated with mineral oil compounds, plasticizers, or salmonella.
If you eat some bad walnuts, you might not feel anything. However, the situation is different if you have a sensitive stomach or have consumed many walnuts infected with mold. Mycotoxins are found to cause the production of tumors in the human body (2). Moreover, extremely toxic mold can cause a lot of damage to the liver and kidneys.
Hence, you must look at every walnut you consume. Pay special attention to walnuts that have been stored together in a bag. If you are unsure at any point, throw the walnuts in the trash.
In case you have harvested the walnuts yourself from the trees around your property, you can provide the best storage conditions so that there is no chance for mold to form on the walnuts. To do this, you will have to store your walnuts in an airy and dry place right after you have collected them from around the trees.
The next step is hanging nets up in a suitable area, such as a shed or barn. This is a great way to store nuts as it will allow the walnuts to dry naturally without the risk of catching mold. Remember that walnuts should always be stored in a dry, cool, and dark place. If they still have their shells on, you can store them in paper bags so that they receive a bit of air.
What To Do with Leftover Walnuts
If you have some leftover walnuts that you are not sure you will be able to consume in time, don’t fret- there are many desserts, as well as savory meals, that use walnuts as their main ingredients.
Here’s what you can do with leftover walnuts:
- Use chopped walnuts in your Thanksgiving turkey stuffing for a richer flavor.
- Add chopped walnuts to a pastry or pie. Walnuts work well with caramel, vanilla, and chocolate, so the options are endless.
- Ground walnuts can be used as a cheesecake biscuit layer and in cookie dough, pie filling, and cake batter.
- Ground walnuts can also be used in an edible diorama to make sand or dirt- creative, isn’t it?
- Just like you can make almond milk using almonds, you can also make walnut milk!
- Break the walnuts into smaller pieces and sprinkle them on a fruit salad or a regular green salad.
- Use walnuts on a cheeseboard to enhance the texture and flavor of the cheese.
- Throw some walnuts into your casseroles or roasted vegetables for a nutty flavor.
- Chop and grind the walnuts so you can use them as breadcrumbs for coating fish, meat, or chicken.
- Crunch walnuts into smaller pieces and sprinkle them on some Greek yogurt for an added punch of protein or crunch.
- Make some trail mix at home by adding almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and dried fruits like raisins and dried cranberries.
If you’re out of ideas and cannot think of any foods that will allow you to use your leftover walnuts, you can get creative with the shell-on walnuts. You could use gold or silver paint to paint on top of them and use them as decorations on big holidays, such as Christmas. Imagine hanging painted walnuts from a Christmas tree!
You can also use the entire walnut to construct a couple of candle holders to place around a table. Tealight holders are another wonderful option, especially if you utilize your walnuts in fall or winter. Some fake snow and evergreen plants can help you get the results that you are longing for.
To conclude, there are two reasons walnuts can be bitter; the antioxidants that cover their skins could be causing some natural bitterness, or the walnuts might have gone bad because of the mold growing on them.
Before your walnuts go bad, you should definitely think about utilizing them. Remember that they are a treat, and there are a bunch of ways to use them.
We also recommend keeping your walnuts whole rather than chopping or grinding them till you are ready to use them. This will ensure that your walnuts stay fresh and maintain their beautiful nutty flavor for the maximum amount of time.