*Harvesting Black Walnuts*
I have started to gather black walnuts from my trees in the backyard. I only have two trees here in town and this year only the bigger one is producing nuts. Last year I didn't get a single nut. The year before, a couple of bushels from the two trees. Looks like it will be a small crop this year.
(These pictures are from online, I don't have any pictures yet from my trees)
Since I didn't gather any last year I sort of forgot for a minute yesterday about the mess they make when husking them. I now have a nice light pair of blue jeans with small brown dots all over them from the juice splattering as I whack the nuts.
For those that have never cleaned black walnuts, they have a green husk when they first fall which rapidly will start to rot. The object is to get the husk off so the nut inside can dry and cure. There are different methods to dehusk a black walnut, from driving over them in the driveway with a car, to smacking them with a hammer as I do.
I have a small piece of railroad rail I just set the nut on, hit it with a small hammer and keep turning the nut as I hit it until the husk is crushed all the way around. The husk is soft and mushy, not hard, so every hit generally sprays out a little juice. This juice is such a strong dye that you cannot wash it off if you get it on you, it has to wear off. So I wear rubber gloves. But the juice still goes everywhere, so old clothes are in order. I was in such a hurry I forgot this point.
Anyway, when you have the husk off of the nut you can go directly to drying them. Or in my case I rinse off any excess meat from the husk that sticks to the nut shell. Then I take them and spread them out to air dry and use screens to protect them from the squirrels (they do appreciate you husking the nut for them). They should not be placed in direct sunlight to dry, just in daylight where the air can get to them. It takes about 3 good weeks to dry them right.
Then the real fun begins as they are not any easier to shell than they were to husk, just no mess from juices. LOL! There are a ton of ways to shell black walnuts, from nut crackers (actually not many nut crackers do a good job, though they do make a couple that work pretty well). Some people smack them with a hammer, which if done with the right blow works fairly well. Too much force and you will find it hard not to leave little pieces of shell in your broken nut meats. I like to use a bench vise, slowly cracking the shell and then rotating the nut a little and doing this again. It takes longer but I get larger unbroken pieces of nutmeats with less shell fragments.
If you have a lot of nutmeats you can freeze them and they will keep for years. They won't keep well in the cupboards as the oils will turn them rancid over time.
Black walnuts are nothing in taste like the English/Persian Walnut you buy at the store and their shells look nothing alike either. They have a taste that is, in my opinion, strong and sharp (not harsh) compared to the English, but its flavor is very unique and delicious.
If you get a chance to gather and process them, please do. You will be pleasantly surprised what all the work produces for you.
Note--If you have black walnut trees growing on your property, beware. Do not plant tomatoes or potatoes and a few other veggies near them, they are toxic towards these plants.
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