We were driving through the Perigord region of France a few weeks ago and realised we were on the ‘Route de la noix’. It was a lovely golden coloured day and walnut trees covered the fields on either side of the road. Walnut orchards are an important part of the Perigord landscape. Walnuts have been cultivated in the Perigord for centuries – back to to early modern humans, 43,000 years ago. In this area the process of cracking the nuts and harvesting the kernels is called the ‘Denoisillage’. In the old days, the walnuts were cracked with a boxwood hammer in front of the fire by the older women.
We stopped at a farm to buy some fresh nuts and were lucky enough to be able to watch the whole process of sorting, drying and dehusking of the nuts. ‘La Grandjean’, la Corne, and ‘la Franquette’ are the three authentic walnut varieties grown here and have the AOC label of ‘Noix du Perigord’ to protect the quality. Although this looks like an industrial process it really is on quite a small scale – and as the farmers above said, no-one gets rich growing walnuts. A beautiful area and worth visiting.
We bought 5 kilos of lovely big Grandjean walnuts – only to discover the walnut season had also started in our area of SW France. Our neighbour’s grandfather planted walnut trees on the perimeter of his fields and she invited us to come collecting nuts with her. So now we’ve got walnuts coming out our ears. Her walnuts are smaller and a different variety and have a slightly different taste.
The route is a fascinating meander through the walnut orchards of the Perigord area and there are lots of lovely places to stay and eat http://www.fermedupech.com/index.html
More info on the route here http://www.noixduperigord.com/gabarre.html