Ark of Taste
Juglans regia v. Chaberte
There is only one surviving tree bearing Chaberte Walnuts that we are aware of, a very old tree in North San Juan California that is estimated to be 130+ years old. The Chaberte Walnut is an 1800’s heirloom: a virtually unknown variety in the United States.
The tree was first imported and introduced to commerce in America by Felix Gillet, a young Frenchman who realized that miners arriving in California in the wake of the Gold Rush would need fruit and nut trees to feed themselves. Gillet opened his nursery in 1871, in Nevada City, California, the epicenter of the Gold Rush, and began selling favorite varieties. Before this variety was brought to California, it was in production in France and Persia. Felix Gillet propagated some of the best fruit and nut trees and established the foundations for the major agricultural industries of the Pacific Western states. He is recognized by the California walnut industry as the founder of their crop, as he introduced the two varieties, Franquette and Mayette, which form the foundation of the entire modern walnut industry of CA, the largest in the world. California is famous for its walnuts, and yet the Chaberte, which stands out above all others, is virtually unknown. The Chaberte tree receives no fertilization, pruning or pest control, it appears to be immune to most diseases and pests, indicating significant resistance. Its nuts are of the highest quality. According to many long time walnut farmers, this walnut variety has better flavor and higher nut quality and color than any of the walnuts being grown commercially in California. The Chaberte Walnut is remarkable for its large, blond nut with smooth texture and great sweetness. Compared with other walnuts, it has little to no astringency. Some years, depending on the climate, there is a hint of maple in the flavor.
The Felix Gillet Institute has been cooperating with the Dave Wilson Nursery of Hughson, CA to propagate this rare and amazing nut tree. As of 2014, only 100 trees had been propagated. These are being planted by homesteaders and, in trial, by organic farmers who are very interested to produce this incredible variety. Chaberte walnuts are not on the market. In 2014, the only nuts available came from the mother tree. At the time, Full Belly Farm had a test plot of twenty trees growing to determine their suitability for commercial scale organic walnut farming; however first harvest of these trees is not predicted until 2019.