In December we visited Grenoble for a pre-Christmas getaway. It’s a fabulous city surrounded by the French Alps with loads to do and fantastic scenery. The town has fifteen markets selling fresh produce – a great place for foodies. The Marché Victor Hugo is one of the biggest fresh food markets. This market is in the centre of town at the elegant square Place Victor Hugo, and is surrounded by medieval buildings and is full of surprises. One of our early discoveries while perusing the markets were stalls majoring in walnuts and walnut products. In fact there were walnuts everywhere. It turns out that Grenoble is ‘The’ walnut growing region in France.
Grenoble walnuts grow on walnut trees (funny that!) along the Alpine Isère river valley. This river’s source is the Aiguille Rousse glacier. This provides the fresh water that makes Grenoble walnuts the finest in the world. The alpine climate, which has long cold winters, helps protect the fruits by killing any pests. The Grenoble walnut is actually so well regarded that in 1938, it became the first fruit to receive an AOC. The AOC is the French equivalent to the EU Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). This protects the name and establishes the terroir of production. 40,000 tonnes of walnuts are harvested each year, with 60% going for export all over the world.
Not only are the walnuts very fine to eat shelled and raw, but they are also used in some fantastic products. From the market we bought Huile de Noix (walnut oil, for fantastic salad dressings), a Gateaux Dauphinois (a honey and walnut tart) and also a small bottle of a lovely walnut liqueur/aperitif (this went great with the tart!)
In one of the coffee shops near to Place Victor Hugo we also managed to sample a piece of the Grenoblois caramel walnut cake (the best coffee and walnut cake ever). I have never seen so many walnuts in a cake. I managed to get the recipe but so far have failed to replicate it at home.
You can also find walnuts in pork sausages and in cheese. In the tourist centre store, we also noticed walnuts in honey.
So What Makes Walnuts Special?
It turns out that walnuts are incredibly good for you. Walnuts contain trace-elements such as zinc, copper, iron and potassium. They are also rich in arginine and omega-3 oils. Eating 5-8 walnuts every day is good for your health. They taste good too, so a win-win 🙂