Fall chore

Ron picks the meat out of a cracked walnut.
Ron picks the meat out of a cracked walnut.

For the first time in about 30 years, I harvested black walnuts this weekend.

We had a tree in our yard when we were a kid. Mom and I used to go outside in old shoes we didn’t care about and stomp the soft outer hulls off of them so we could bring them in, crack them and pick out the meat. Then the tree died, and I didn’t have access to walnuts again until last year, when we moved here. The tree in the yard next door overhangs our driveway and throws sap and nuts all over our cars.

We didn’t get any walnuts last year, because the squirrels stole them. This year, we gathered the nuts as they fell and kept them in a basket in the garage.

Black walnuts with the outer hulls stripped from them. The nuts you see filled the basket before i removed the hulls.
Black walnuts with the outer hulls stripped from them. The nuts you see above filled that basket before I removed the hulls.
Hulls. Never put these in your compost or garden; they contain a natural herbicide that will kill anything you try to grow.
Hulls. Never put these in your compost or garden; they contain a natural herbicide that will kill anything you try to grow.
Here's all the nut meat we removed from the shells.
Here’s all the nut meat we removed from the shells.

Black walnuts are a pain to process — you have to stomp off the outer hulls, let them dry for a week or two, crack them with a hammer, and pick out all the meat, which takes foreeeeeeever — but the payoff is pretty good, as you know if you’ve ever had black walnut beer or chocolate-chip cookies with black walnuts in them, and it was kind of satisfying to do something I haven’t done since I was a kid. I might pay someone else to process them next time, though. We’ve got another 250 I stomped the other day, and I’m sure another 50 to 100 have fallen from the tree since then. There’s a limit to how long I’m willing to spend processing walnuts in one season.

Emily

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5 thoughts on “Fall chore”

  1. They make the very best brownies in the world, and banana-nut bread that’s purely unforgettable. You could have had black walnuts at any point along the way, Dolly. We have trees in the back that bless the squirrels more than they can handle. This year the pecan tree doesn’t appear to have many on it, but the hazelnuts are bearing for their first time this year. We’ve picked up probably a quart or so over the past week. They’re small, but we’re hoping they’ll get bigger as the plants grow.

      1. I don’t know if it holds true for all pecans or not, but the ones in our yard are actually color-coded. If the stripes on the shells are black, the nuts are good. If they’re a reddish-brown, don’t waste your time cracking them because they are no good.

  2. Probably should mention that black walnuts frequently have what appears to be maggots or other larvae inside the green outer hulls. This in no way affects the nutmeats inside. They just eat the hulls, which you aren’t going to use anyway unless you need to make some dark brown dye or stain. Just stomp the hulls off and spread them out on an old screen inside your garage, basement or barn to dry for a week or so. The little critters will dry up and fall off in the meantime. You can crack the nuts and enjoy the “nut goodies” (as your grandpa used to call them) at your leisure while listening to good music or watching TV. Black walnuts are essential for the best brownies, fudge and banana nut muffins, and cost a young fortune if you have to buy them.

    1. My first byline in the Southern included a reference to maggots in walnut hulls, actually. 🙂 Ron took the rest of ours (~3 bushels) to a walnut farm to have them shelled. We got tired of messing with them. On an unrelated note, we’re thinking about heading to SoIL today. You around?

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