Black Walnuts: How to Gather, Clean and Store Them

These walnuts are at the right stage for processing.

These walnuts are at the right stage for processing.

This is a subject I had planned to write about last fall, when it was the season for Black Walnuts, but our son’s lung cancer took a downturn and I didn’t get to it.

Black Walnuts (Juglans nigra) are native to our area of Connecticut and we have a dozen or so in our yard.  They are noted for their fine wood, much desired for furniture, but we enjoy them for their nuts.  I’m not so happy with the one that hangs over the vegetable garden as the roots secrete a hormone, Juglone, that stunts the growth of a number of plants, tomatoes, potatoes and asparagus among them.  The nuts are delicious though.  They have a distinctive flavor that stays vibrant even after baking, something the English walnuts seem to lose.  The trick is to harvest them  and extract the nuts from the thick, tough shells.  The shells are so tough that the Grey Squirrels cannot get into them and only the Eastern Red Squirrels are able to access the nut meats.

The nuts are gathered as soon as they fall from the tree (choosing the largest nuts).  Store them in a paper bag (away from squirrels!) until the green husks just begin to soften and turn black.  At this point the husk can be removed.   This is not easy and the juice stains.  Several methods have been suggested (even running over them with the car) but my husband puts on an old pair of shoes and rolls them around under his foot against a rough piece of flagstone.

Grinding them underfoot while washing them off with the hose seems to be an efficient way to get the husks off.

Grinding them underfoot while washing them off with the hose seems to be an efficient way to get the husks off.

Once the husk is removed, the nuts in their shells need to be washed thoroughly and dried on newspaper (again, away from the squirrels).  If the residual husk is not completely removed they may mold.  If they begin to mold, you can dip them in very dilute bleach, if you catch it in time.  We found a special heavy-duty nutcracker to crack the nuts, and I have seen similar ones on-line.  Before we found that, we used to crack the nuts with a hammer on a rock that had a little depression to hold the nut.  If you do this, wear goggles as the sharp shards of shell fly everywhere.  Cracking the nuts and picking out the nut meats is one way to while away an afternoon.  I have tried storing them toasted, non-toasted, frozen, unfrozen and have found they keep the longest untoasted and frozen.  We prefer them toasted when we eat them and I toast them just before I use them.  In my next post, I’ll relate some of the ways I use them.

After husking them, wash them off.

After husking them, wash them off.

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Be sure the residual husk is completely removed before storing them.

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Megan said,

    Thanks for sharing! My husband told me yesterday there was a walnut tree back in the woodline and it’s loaded. I have no experience with walnuts but this sure helped me get on the right path 🙂 Thanks again!

    Like


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