The Mandarin Spinach Salad w/ California Caramelized Walnuts is one of the delicious tossed salads at Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes restaurants in the October menu. The walnuts used in the recipe are from Poindexter Nut Company (PNC), based in Selma, CA. Mike Poindexter is a third generation walnut farmer and CEO of PNC. Mike’s father, Ron Poindexter, and grandfather, Latha Poindexter, started delivering their walnuts in the 1950’s. In addition to growing their own walnuts, PNC buys from 300 other California farmers.
Last year, the company purchased 55 million pounds from the outside growers. “We farm about 1,300 acres and roughly half of that is in walnuts and the rest is raisins. We supply about 3% of our overall volume with the balance coming from our network of farmers,” says Mike. Chandler, Tulares, and Ivanhoes are the walnut varieties grown at the farm. A walnut tree takes about five years to grow before it begins producing walnuts and hits its maximum production between nine and 11 years of age.
Harvesting starts after Labor Day and continues until the end of October, with some harvesting running through Thanksgiving. Typically, about 90% of the walnut harvest is complete by Halloween. Harvesting walnuts is a spectacular sight. A specialized tractor grabs the trunk of the tree and shakes it. “If you stand there you can feel the walnuts being shaken and it’s surreal. About 75 pounds of in-shell walnuts are on a tree and generate around 33 pounds that are finished and get into a box. So, every tree will generate just a little more than one case of walnut kernels,” says Mike.
The processing plant is 150,000 square feet and the shelling and sorting process is year round. The walnuts are put in cold storage in 35-40 F to preserve freshness and can maximize the effectiveness of shelf life extension without freezing them.
“We’ve done everything we can to up the quality of what we’re packing. We helped develop a certified organic walnut pasteurization system that gives us the ability to pack and ship the safest food quality in the industry with a product that ends up having a better shelf life and better flavor because of it,” says Mike.
Mike boasts, “It’s challenging, but it’s rewarding. We’re providing one of the world’s healthiest food to people that need to eat more healthy foods.”
PNC employs over 400 people and exports to more than 45 countries.
For more information about Poindexter Nut Company, visit http://www.poindexternut.com