Walnuts on show

by Kent Caddick

West Melton will be hosting its first ever Walnut Festival this weekend.

The inaugural West Melton Walnut Festival will be held at the West Melton shopping complex on Saturday, October 14 from 9am onwards.

New Zealand Walnut Industry Group chair Nelson Hubber said West Melton is the centre of walnut growing in New Zealand.

“We have about 75 members from Wanaka and Dunedin in the south to the Eastern Bay of Plenty in the north, and we even have one member in Australia, but West Melton is the centre of the largest commercial walnut growing area in NZ.

“It is also home to the largest walnut processing factory in the country, New Zealand Walnuts Ltd, which is a growers co-operative,” Mr Hubber said.

In the past growing walnuts in New Zealand has been a backyard cottage kind of thing but we are making it into a commercial reality.

“An example of this is that our most productive grower, Lightfoot Walnuts near Lincoln, produced 36 tonnes this year and that’s just one of over 50 orchards in the Selwyn area.

Most produce less than 36 tonnes, some down to just a few hundred kilograms but in years to come the potential production in the area is likely to be 600 to 800 tonnes.”

Mr Hubber said around 300 tonnes of walnuts have been produced commercially in New Zealand this year, however, this is nothing compared to California (650,000 tonnes) and Yunnan Province in China (870,000 tonnes).

Darfield walnut grower, Trudi Meyer, who has around 1,000 walnut trees on her 9ha Telegraph Road property, said the best thing about locally grown walnuts is their freshness.

“Some people don’t like the taste of walnuts and this is normally because they are old,” Mrs Meyer said.

“The perception that walnuts will keep forever in their shell is somewhat true but it doesn’t mean that they will continue to taste good.

“We find that when we give people fresh locally grown walnuts they are amazed how much better they taste.”

Locals will get the opportunity this Saturday to find out for themselves as well as learning about the health benefits of walnuts.