I had never thought of walnuts as having a season as they can be bought year-round from the supermarket. Although I occasionally saw unshelled nuts, I never bothered with them because the shelled ones are easier to eat and cook with. On a trip to France last month, however, I saw whole walnuts piled high in the markets, along with other seasonal produce. The walnut meat, once extracted from the brittle shell (an easier task than I'd imagined) was entirely different from the more desiccated nut that I was familiar with - the texture was softer and the flavour sweeter and milder. I was taught how to peel their thin skin - possible only when the nuts are very fresh - which removes any hint of bitterness. The walnut is the kernel of a pulpy fruit, which is removed before the nuts are sent to market. Walnuts are also pressed for their oil, which is delicious drizzled over salads. Chinese candied walnuts are sugar-coated, deep-fried then sprinkled with sesame seeds while they're still hot. For an easier, healthier snack, whisk a small amount of egg white until frothy, mix with shelled walnuts to coat them lightly, then toss with sugar, a little salt and cinnamon. Spread onto a baking tray lined with foil then bake, mixing occasionally, until lightly toasted. A savoury variation can be made by mixing the egg white-coated nuts with salt, paprika, cayenne, black pepper and a pinch of sugar before baking. For the spicy Lebanese dip known as muhammara, roast red peppers by putting them on the flame of a gas burner so the skin blisters and burns, then rinse with cold water to wash away the skin. Discard the cores and stems of the peppers and dry the flesh with paper towels. Roughly grind the peppers with lots of shelled walnuts and some chilli flakes, chilli paste, breadcrumbs, olive oil, pomegranate molasses, salt and lemon juice. Don't overprocess the mixture; it should be slightly chunky. Serve as part of a mezze platter with toasted bread or pita.