THE STORY BEHIND... OUR ORGANIC WALNUTS

Walnuts, the well known nuts with the brain-like appearance, are used in many different ways and in many parts of the world. But where do our walnuts come from, and how do they end up at our warehouse in Barneveld? Let us tell you the story behind our walnuts!

Walnuts from Moldova

Our organic walnuts come from three organic walnut orchards in southwest Moldova, spread over 320 acres. The annual yield is about 3800 tons of walnuts in shells, which makes for about 1700 tons of walnut kernels. Part of that yield ends up in our warehouse in Barneveld, from which we supply our customers worldwide with walnuts of excellent quality.

The switch to organic

40 years ago, farmer Dumitru planted the walnut forest, situated between other agricultural fields and forests and without industry in the area. He saw that the soil of his plantation was fertile and clean and had a positive influence on the local microclimate. That is why 10 years ago he decided to switch to 100% organic farming. Thanks to the fertile soil, the trees are strong and they do not need manure or artificial support. In the nearby nursery he plants young trees, which can replace the old trees in the long run.

Harvesting by hand

The brown walnut as we know it grows safely and protected in a green, leather like peel. In October and November, when the peel splits open and falls on the ground, about 50 people from the village harvest the nuts by hand. They are mostly farmer families, who have less work on their own land in these fall months. After harvesting, the nuts in the brown shells are put on a drying bed in a half open space, so that they can dry in open air.

Time for the next step: cracking. To have an excellent looking walnut, the hard shell is removed by the same farmers, working in the factory 3 months per year, 8 hours per day, 6 days per week, cracking the walnut with a small but effective hammer. So why are these people doing such intensive work and no machinery is used? This is due to the hard shell of the wild walnuts. Unlike soft shell walnuts, which are grown on plantations, the hard shell walnuts cannot be cracked by a machine. Each walnut has a unique size and shape, no machine can break the shell without damaging the inner nut. So here is where the unique craftmanship enters the room: a bunch of experienced ladies (youngsters are escaping Moldova looking for work) break the walnut delicately, with just the correct amount of pressure. An exciting process to see!

After cracking, the nuts are sorted on colour (amber – long in the sun – or light) and size (halves, quarters and pieces), and small remaining pieces of shell or dirt are removed. Then the walnuts are dried in the oven up till perfect humidity of 4,5 or max 5%. After being checked again by at least 16 eyes, the walnuts are ready to pack into vacuum packs of 10kg. Thanks to the vacuum packing, it is possible to keep the nuts fresh for over 1,5 years! On one day, 20mt of walnuts can be processed in the factory.

The future

When we take a look at the future, Dumitru has multiple plans for the orchard. “We are in the third year of conversion of new organic orchards, for prunes as well, which cover over 140 hectares. Currently, we are BSCI certified, but we are also examining the benefits to apply for Fair Trade certification in the coming seasons”.

Update from the field, November 12, 2019

Account Manager Scandinavia & Eastern Europe Ruben de Wit: "Last week I had the opportunity to visit our walnut and plum/prune supplier in Moldova, in unusual warm temperatures of 20 degrees. Guided by an enthusiastic and passionate Dumitru we visited the production facility, walnut trees and vineyard, where Dumitru tells us this year’s crop of walnuts is of excellent quality, which occurs maximum once per 5 years. The wild walnuts were harvested in August-October under optimal conditions: it was not too hot and not too humid. The soil below the tree is heavy, full of plant remains and moulds, which makes it very fertile. Thanks to these optimal conditions, no fertilizers are used. This excellent year for Moldovan walnuts is in contrast with other walnut countries around Moldova, where crops are not so good due to bad weather conditions in spring. Despite the increasing market prices for walnuts, DO-IT benefits from the very good relation with the Vicol family and therefore DO-IT received the very first new crop container."

 

More stories?

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Last update: 23-12-2019