Weather worked to the advantage of California walnut growers, who produce 99% of the U.S., crop and 78% of the world’s supply, according to the California Walnut Commission. About 40% of the crop stays in the U.S., where retailers and processors have increased use by 24% since 2002.
Charles Crain, commission chairman, said in early September the quality and size of the kernels were looking exceptional. He credited a mild spring and summer in walnut-growing regions for the condition of the 2011 crop. Like most other nuts, though, harvest was delayed at least two weeks this year because weather resulted in late development.
In late September at San Jose’s Stapleton-Spence Packing Co. director Joe Bauer had one word for walnuts this fall: big. Bauer said the nuts were not only good size and quality, but the good prices in recent years had encouraged more growers to enter the category, which translates into more nuts to sell.
“We don’t know what the prices are going to be like yet this year,” Bauer said. “The late crop means late price estimates.”
Prices will likely remain good, according to the California Walnut Board, partly because of growing worldwide public awareness of the nutritional value of walnuts.
On Sept. 23 the board announced the American Heart Association had certified walnuts to carry its heart-check mark, signifying they meet nutritional standards set by the association.
In a news release announcing the designation, Michael Roizen, a doctor and the chairman of the Wellness Institute Cleveland Clinic, said walnuts are the only nut that provides a significant amount of the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid.