Hello! I am back from San Francisco (and super glad I’m NOT weighing in this morning…) and wanted to share a really cool experience with you guys. I booked my ticket back in July because I had been talking with my friend Robyn about coming to visit, and then when they announced that the FoodBuzz festival would be this past weekend, I figured why not see what plane tickets were looking like and hit two birds with one stone. That day, I checked out tickets and found a round trip fare from DCA to SFO for $313, with taxes!! I bought it right then and there.
When I got an email a couple weeks ago from the people over at the Mariani Nut Company asking if I’d be interested in a trip to visit the walnut orchard, have lunch, and see the harvest process on Thursday, the one day I had zero plans, it seemed like it was meant to be.
A group of about 10 bloggers gathered at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel (sorry for being the last one there guys… whoops!) and we took the 1.5 hour trip on a cute little private bus to Winters, CA, where the orchards were.
On the bus ride there, we got to hear from an RD who works with the nut company, and I found out a few interesting things.
- Walnuts are really good for you. They’re loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. OK, I guess that wasn’t that interesting.
- Walnuts can actually help you LOSE weight. What? Apparently, a diet that includes healthy fats such as walnuts can help you feel more satiated, and there have even been studies done where people ate walnuts on top of the calories they were already consuming and still managed to lose weight. Good to know!
- I asked the RD how she recommends people who have a tendency to overdo it (HELLO WORLD) can manage to have walnuts in their diet, and she said portion control is key, obviously. She said that at some health expos they hand out little boxes that hold exactly 1 oz. of nuts (5 Pts+ on Weight Watchers) that help with portion control and are completely portable. I’m going to look into getting one of those.
And then, before I knew it, we had arrived at the orchards!
We honestly could not have asked for a more gorgeous day. The weather was in the high 70’s, sunny, clear, and perfect the entire time we were there.
There were rows and rows and rows of walnut trees.
Before this tour, I barely knew that walnuts grew on trees, much less that they had a soft skin around them that begins to brown and break open as the walnuts ripen.
I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so many walnuts in one sitting (guess I really do need one of those boxes!) but man does it get any fresher than this!?
They don’t call them the ultimate brain food for nothin’!
The COOLEST part was that there is this little machine that comes down the rows of walnut trees and tree by tree, shakes the nuts off.
I even made a little video which I posted on my Facebook page where you can see that machine shaking the trees.
After the machine was done, the ground was covered with fresh walnuts.
And then another machine came down and sucked all the walnuts up and transported them back to the plant for processing. We got to see that whole thing too, but first – lunch!
Literally right in the middle of a walnut orchard. Gorgeous.
We started off with a delicious butternut squash soup, garnished with crème fraiche and toasted walnuts.
It was so creamy and delicious, and the walnut provided a nice crunch against the smooth texture of the soup. Yum.
For the main course, we had a spice rubbed salmon along with a penne pasta and veggie dish. The pasta was out of this world and had brussels sprouts, rutabaga, red peppers, green beans, and toasted walnuts. It was in an olive oil based sauce and was something I’d never think to throw walnuts into, but it totally made the dish. The salmon was perfect too, and a great contrast to the pasta.
For dessert, we had a persimmon tart with toasted walnuts and fresh whipped cream.
It was SO GOOD. The crust was so light and flaky and the persimmon were perfectly ripe and juicy with a lightly sweet glaze. My plan was to just eat the fruit off the tart and leave the crust, but I am sure you will not be surprised to hear that I actually all but licked the clean plate. Oh well, it was the theme of the trip.
After that incredible lunch, we were brought back to the processing plant to see what happens with the nuts after they are collected from the trees.
We got to (had to) wear really fashion-forward hairnets before heading into the processing facility to see how it all goes down.
Basically, they have these incredible high tech machines that sort the walnuts out from the shells (and any other dirt that is picked up) and they go through this sorting process many times, so by the end there is nothing but fresh nuts. They use the shells for fuel and other industries, so nothing goes to waste!
They are broken down from half nuts all the way to walnut meal (very fine powder) and everything in between. The final step of the process includes two sets of human eyes and hands checking them before they go to packaging.
How cool is that!?
Seeing the entire process from tree to package was a really cool and eye opening experience. I hope you enjoyed hearing about it (almost) as much as I enjoyed being there. Thanks Mariani!
What’s your favorite kind of nut? How often do you eat ‘em?
Mine’s a tie between pistachios and almonds. I think the reason for that honestly is that they are the easiest one for me to control my portions with (10 pistachios = 1 pt+, 7 almonds = 1pt+) but the walnuts were REALLY good and worked so seamlessly in the dishes we ate, both sweet and savory, so I think I’m going to give them more of a chance!