History and distribution of nuts

The violent growth of the family Juglandaceae dates back to the Palaeogene period. This fact shows the greatness and uncommonness of this plant. On the territory of Southwest France archaeologists have found petrified shells of nuts that were roasted during the Neolithic period, about eight thousand years ago. The most impressive sort of nuts is walnut, the appearance of which is written below.

Walnuts are sometimes called Juglans regia or common walnuts.  On the territory of Ukraine this nut is also called voloskyy or royal. The word for nut itself derives from the Latin nux Gallica, ‘Gallic nut’ (fruit of the shell), with a suggested derivation from nox (night) owing to the dark juice of the nut, which was used to dye wool. The genus name “Juglans” comes from Roman mythology. Central Asia and some areas near the Caucasus are native to this plant. Just on these territories walnuts were introduced into culture many years B.C. The other sources affirm that Mediterranean is native to this sort of nuts. The fruit of walnut were delivered to Crimean and the territory of up-to-date Ukraine mostly from Greece. Hence appears the Ukrainian name of fruit ‘Greek nut’ or widespread name ‘walnut’. In Central Asia, especially towards the end of the Fergana and Chatkal mountain ridges, there are a lot of fruit trees, the main sort of which is walnut.

Most probably walnut played a significant role in nutrition of primitive man. A lot of walnuts were found on the territories of the first settlements discovered by archaeologists in Switzerland, Italy and some other countries. Some facts about these nuts are mentioned in various written scripts. In different ancient books there is a lot of information about walnuts getting to Palestine from Persia which was considered to be the native to this nut. The ancient Romans and Scythians also mentioned about walnuts.  There have been a lot of legends connecting with walnuts since earliest times. One of them is closely connected with its antidotal action. When Roman commander Pompeius Magnus defeated king Mithridates VI, in the palace he found the prescription of the remedy which should be taken on an empty stomach every morning to protect oneself from dangerous poison activity. This unique remedy consisted of two walnuts, two figs, leaves and salt.

Scientists believe that walnuts probably disappeared in some areas of North Europe during ice age, but then were brought again by ‘barbarians’ and Greco-Roman conquerors.

Walnut appearance on the territory of Ukraine dates back to 750-800 years A.D., during early Christianity period, when the Greek priests were the guests of Grand Dukes of Kiev. In the capacity of gifts they have brought precious things as well as nuts as medicinal and prophylactic drug. Those nuts were planted at courts and near churches. The expansion of walnut population on the territory of Ukraine is still in progress.

Theophrastus, also called ‘father of botany’, was one of the first who described walnut. Cicero, Virgil, Hippocrates mentioned this nut in their works as well. The similarity of walnut kernel appearance with human brain caused many legends. Thus, Greek philosopher Plato quite seriously asserted that those fruit possess the power to think. Because of rich fruiting of this nut, a lot of peoples considered walnut to be the symbol of prosperity and longevity.

In ancient Rom walnut was the attribute of wedding ceremony. There is one tradition in Moldova and the Caucasus: when the baby is born, parents plant nut tree as layette.

 

Areas of walnut distribution

Walnut distribution presupposes making of nut plantations for different purposes: first of all plantations in order to receive fruit and sylvulas for valuable nut wood and fruit growing, protective and wayside nut plantations on the territories of vineyards, gardens, industrial areas, large and small highways and fields, plantations around urban and rural areas, industrial enterprises, as well as ornamental plantations – parks, public gardens and paths on private estates and farms.

Walnut is widespread in Europe and Asia, especially in the south part of Balkan Peninsula, Iran, Afghanistan, Korea, Japan and China. This sort of nuts is cultivated far more than its natural habitat borders, for example, in North America – particularly in Oregon and California, where the harvest goes beyond Middle European indices.

The USA, China, Moldova, Turkey, Iran and Ukraine are the chief walnut producers. There are a lot of cultural industrial gardens on the territory of France, but the cultivation of walnuts is being carried out mostly in Ukraine. In Moldova this sort of nuts takes the fourth place after wine, wheat and textile fabrics by export scale. The purposeful forming of industrial intensive gardens in Ukraine started only in 2009 after the beginning of informational work of Ukrainian social organization ‘Ukrainian nut association’.

Wild walnut grows in the west Caucasus and Talysh Mountains. Also walnut can be met in north China, north India, Tien Shan, Iran, Asia Minor and Greece. During prehistoric times walnut was widespread in West Europe, although, perhaps, it was not the same sort which grows there nowadays. This nut doesn’t go well with heavy and damp soils; it grows well in valley, moistened with running water. Walnuts are propagated basically by seeds.

The most widespread cultivar of walnut in the Crimea is the Juglandeae angulosa with medium fruit and firm shell. The thin-skinned variety – reticulate or Jelter-jevius (Juglandeae tenera) is better by qualitative indicators. Further follow kharga-burun with peaked fruit and kaba-jevius or bomb (Juglandeae maxima) with huge fruit, but very small grains or seeds usable only fresh (for Christmas-tree decorations). The good variety of walnut is Late or St. John hazel (Juglandeae scrotina), which leaves and flowers blossom out too late, and therefore it suffers from cold least of all in contrast to walnut which is too sensitive to cold. The well-known ornamental varieties are diversifolious (Juglandeae heterophylla), American cultivars (Juglandeae cinerea, Juglandeae nigra) and others.

Walnut fruiting starts at the age of 8-10 (with the correct crown formation and good care fruiting starts at the age of 4 or 5), but more abundantly it begins from 15-20 years to 150-200 years and later age.

At the present time the industrial walnut gardens area expanded up to 3000 ha. The areas of separate nut gardens vary from 5 to 100 hectares. Those gardens are formed with grafted seedlings which are registered at State Registry of Ukraine taking into account modern technologies and recommendations of ministry of food and agricultural policy.

The aim of sylvula making (the main plant of which will be the nut) on the territories of Ukrainian forestry enterprises is walnut growing, getting fruit, making gardens and protective nut plantations, green zones and others.

The Ukrainian nut market is still unsaturated. The highest possible approaching of customer demand to food standards and satisfaction of external market needs can be the guideline of walnut market development.

There are four licensed walnut gardens in Ukraine. Twenty-one varieties are listed in the State Registry of Ukraine, twelve of which are Ukrainian, six are Moldavian and three are French.

The great demand and high marketable nut surpluses are caused by:

  • Particular value of walnuts as a foodstuff;
  • High portability of walnuts which can be stored and sold during the year and more;
  • Rather bad crop capacity of walnut gardens – up to 1,0-1,5 t/ha;
  • Rather small on the globe natural habitat areas suitable for walnuts by their environmental conditions.

 

In Ukraine the existing walnut plantations of seed origin have practically unlimited variety of forms, mainly low-yield and with low commercial quality of fruit.

Taking into account a considerable nut demand of internal market and, what is more important, external market, the selection of prospective forms from local gene pool as well as vegetative reproduction of those plants is a particular precondition for making high-intensity walnut plantation on the territory of Ukraine. This will provide complete satisfaction of high quality nut demand and will assist in receipt of funds to the economy of the country.

Until recently walnut plantations have been propagating exclusively by nut seeding and as a result there were a lot of various forms of trees, which differed from each other by biologic features (fruit size, immunity to a disease and others), but in the first place by nature of the production (total crop amount, quality of nuts). Forms with bad crop capacity, small nuts with hard shells, kernels of which are separated with a lot of effort are dominated among various forms.

Strategic tendency of walnut progress consists in effective usage of existing plantations and making of new gardens of certified varieties, cultivated with high industrial technology that will provide the high producing capacity and high quality of production.

The excess demand of nut production on European market and Ukrainian nut competitiveness on this market more insistently bring up an issue of areas expansion, plantation productivity increase and walnut quality improvement.

Saplings, grafted with varieties of walnuts or their best forms are planted to get fruit from nut plantations. Making of such plantations needs the organization of uterine-seed growing sector, which includes tree selection (cultivars and the best forms), growing of grafted material and double nut plant, greenhouse building for year-round works connected with  keeping, grafting mechanization and so on.