Avenisuri Walnut

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The common walnut (Juglans regia), also known as the Persian or English walnut, originated in the mountains of Central and Western Asia. Over the past several millennia, humans spread this species across the entirety of the Eurasian continent, and today it is an important crop around the world. In Georgia, the walnut is an ancient and essential ingredient, grown in every region of the country, and used in both sweet and savory dishes, with vegetables or meat, and as a source of oil. Two of Georgia’s most popular and distinctive traditional foods are churchkhela, a candle- or sausage-shaped sweet made from walnuts threaded onto a string, dipped in grape juice thickened with flour, and then hung to dry; and the green walnut preserves known as kaklis muraba.

The Avenisuri walnut is named for the village of Avenisi, which lies at 840 meters above sea level on the southern slope of the Caucasus, about 70 kilometers north of Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi. The Avenisuri flowers in the middle of May, after the last of the late spring frosts. This is important because, although dormant walnut trees can survive relatively low temperatures, the buds are very sensitive to cold. Late flowering ensures high yields. Avenisuri walnuts, which mature in late September, are large and oblong, with a thin, pale shell.

In 1986, with the construction of the Zhinvali hydroelectric dam just a few kilometers downstream on the Aragvi River, much of Avenisi was submerged, and its residents were forced to leave. The groves, once well known throughout the region as a source of superior walnuts, were abandoned. Today the trees remain unmanaged, though local people collect some of the fruit for home consumption.

Even though the common walnut is the world’s most widely grown nut crop, local populations in its native range are limited, and ancient stands are under threat from livestock farming and wood harvesting. Georgia, and the Caucasus region generally, is a reservoir of walnut genetic diversity: If this heritage is not vigorously protected, the Avenisuri and countless other Georgian walnut varieties may disappear forever.

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Production area:Avenisi

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Fruit, nuts and fruit preserves

Nominated by:Tamaz Dundua