Farm Tour Diaries: California’s Walnut Harvest Celebration

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PHOTO: Blogger and chef Janah Adickman with The Moosewood Cookbook author Mollie Katzen.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Walnut Harvest Celebration in Sacramento, Calif.  “A celebration?” you may ask. Well, yes, indeed it was. Walnuts are harvested once a year from September to October, when the farmers rejoice in the fruit (or nuts, rather) of their labor.

Before attending the celebration, I honestly hadn’t given much thought as to how walnuts get from the orchard to my pantry. In fact, I realized I knew very little about walnuts. What I did know was how much they cost at the store and that they are quite delicious. Within just two days of being surrounded by walnut experts, farmers, and researchers, I was chock full o’ walnut information.

Not only did I discover the incredible hard work that goes into growing and harvesting walnuts, but I also learned about their impressive health benefits. Walnuts are an excellent source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, protein, and fiber.

In addition to learning and observing, I also did a lot of eating. At the start of my walnut adventure, I participated in a cooking demonstration with one of my favorite cookbook authors, Mollie Katzen, who penned The Moosewood Cookbook, which has been in my collection for years. Katzen demonstrated how to make pesto using walnuts instead of the more traditional choice, pine nuts.

Following the pesto creating session, we made our way to dinner. We dined in an enclosed patio that looked out onto Sacramento’s beautifully-lit Capitol Building. Each dish showcased creative ways to incorporate walnuts into recipes and truly showed the versatility of the nut. I marveled at each creation and found myself practically licking the plates clean. As we enjoyed the meal, Dr. Brian Wansink, director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University and author of Mindless Eating, discussed his research on eating habits and making healthy dietary choices.

The next day, we visited Fedora Farms, which has been owned and operated by the Fedora family for five generations. We walked through the orchards and learned about the journey walnuts take from the orchard to the store. Lunch was served in the middle of the orchard, in the shade of the towering walnut trees.

Later that evening, just when I thought my trip couldn’t get much better, we made the final stop on our culinary tour: The Kitchen Restaurant. The meal we enjoyed there was more than just an ordinary meal, it was an experience. Unlike most restaurants, The Kitchen Restaurant only has one dinner seating, or “show,” a day. The chefs spend hours preparing for their performance and prepping the star of the show, the food. Executive chef Noah Zonca could best be described as a maestro. We were a hungry audience that watched in amazement as he conducted his symphony of sous-chefs. It was a perfect ending note to my time in Sacramento.

Back in Los Angeles, I couldn’t get walnuts off my brain. Stay tuned for my forthcoming post here on the VT Editors’ Blog, Pantry Raid: Walnuts.

For more of Janah’s foodie musings, visit