Black walnuts and common walnuts, or English walnuts, are similar in taste and appearance. However, there are some subtle and distinct differences. Read the comparisons below to help determine which walnut you might prefer to plant and eat.
Name and Description
Both black walnuts and common walnuts are from the same genus, Juglans. The black walnut, Juglans nigra, is also referred to as the Eastern black walnut. The common walnut, Juglans regia, is also referred to as the English walnut or Persian walnut.
They are both deciduous fruit trees with leaves formed from smaller leaflets. The black walnut has smaller leaflets and more of them, between 15 and 23, while the common walnut has between five and nine leaflets. The color and texture of the bark differs as well. The bark of the black walnut tree is smooth with colors ranging between olive-green and grey. The common walnut is rough with deep grooves in it while the color of the bark is a dark greyish-black.
History of the Walnuts
The black walnut is native to North America and was used by the Indians as a source of food and dye for thousands of years. The juices of the black walnut shell produce a strong smell and their dark tint can produce stains. The common walnut originated in Persia and is believed to have been planted in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. When the Greeks discovered the walnut, they cultivated it until it became larger, like the size it is today. The ancient Romans also loved the walnut and named it after their god Jupiter, or Jove.
Both kinds of walnuts are similar in taste and appearance. The shell of the common walnut is thinner and much easier to remove. That's why most walnuts that you find at the store still in their shell are common walnuts. The black walnut has a thick shell that is difficult to crack, making it difficult to remove the walnut whole. The black walnut is more commonly sold out of its shell. The black walnut also has a stronger taste and smell. Although either walnut can be substituted for the other in recipes, black walnuts give off a stronger aroma and taste and so are a popular choice for desserts and baked goods like cookies, cakes, and ice cream.
The black walnut and common walnut are both high in nutrients. They both are a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help protect against heart disease. The black walnut has slightly more protein and less fat.
Both the black walnut and the common walnut are used to produce timber. The wood of the walnut tree is dense, tight-grained and hard. When kiln-dried, the wood turns a dull brown color. If air-dried, it turns a distinctive purplish-brown. Because of its many positive attributes, walnut wood is used for making furniture, cabinets, gun stocks, and musical instruments.