Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

Black walnuts are native to eastern North America, ranging from Ontario to northern Florida, and west to Texas. There are quite a few of them here in south central PA, and considering that they usually sell for about $13/lb, I thought I'd try harvesting some myself.

Finding a tree is easy--just look for the fallen, institutional green fruits, which somewhat resemble Asian pears. I found mine along a back country road dappling an abandoned driveway. The nut fruits fall when they're ready, so you can pick them off the ground. Avoid the black, rotten ones, and choose the firm, fresh, green ones. With this being my first time doing this, I chose to keep the amount manageable and ended up with about five pounds worth (they're heavy).

The next step is removing the fruit hull, which can be messy, so be mindful of this. I read several ways to remove the hulls, using knives, hammers, but the way that kept being recommended when I spoke to others was simply running them over with a car. So I lined them up in front of the tires, and slowly drove over them twice.

They might looked totally squashed, but the nuts are fine inside.

I then removed the nuts from the squashed hulls and placed them in a bucket full of water to clean them and separate from any remaining hull. Make sure to wear gloves when handling the opened fruit hulls. Under the skins of the hulls, above the nut shell is a black goo which is poisonous and stains very easily.

The nuts sat in the water for about six hours, then I dumped the water outside, and placed the nuts on newspaper in the basement where they dried for three days. Some folks dry them longer, but I heard this works fine.

After three days I started the final step of cracking the shells and removing the meat. My little nutcracker wasn't even coming close to being able to crack these, so I tapped them with a hammer on the cement basement floor. Tap lightly, as the pieces can shoot everywhere if you hit them too hard.

The meat will be in all sorts of nooks and crannies within the nut, so you'll need a nut pick or something similar to remove the meat.

Removing the meat can be a tedious task, and I kinda felt like I was picking meat out of crabs at times, but when it was all said and done I ended up with enough for a batch of pesto.

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Comment by jason chambers on September 26, 2010 at 11:24pm
Hey thanks for the car tip. We have a black walnut tree and harvested them once but I used a knife to get the hull off and it was a nightmare. I know what i am doing tomorrow.
Comment by Lynda Reynolds on September 28, 2010 at 12:24pm
Black walnuts grow all over California, too. I love them. I wait for the husks to turn black and then crack them out...tough nuts, but soooo delicious.
Comment by Christa Nelson on September 28, 2010 at 1:57pm
Lynda, I got the info on the black walnut range from wikipedia where it said they're "native" to eastern North America, but were introduced elsewhere........maybe folks brought them out west? or perhaps you may have to update that wikipedia page? ........but yes, the black walnuts are tasty!
Comment by Sue Tirrell on September 28, 2010 at 3:49pm
I had a handsome black walnut tree when I lived in Eastern Montana. There were several years where I had a bumper crop and tried to harvest the nuts--I did find that the meat was very tasty but alot of work! Your post makes me wish I had tried harder!
Comment by Lynda Reynolds on September 28, 2010 at 4:07pm
You are probably right...like many plants and trees in California, that are not native, but brought out from *somewhere* else....and I for one am greatful...even for the starthistle...excellent honey!
Comment by Christa Nelson on September 30, 2010 at 11:10pm
so the end result was this......black walnut pound cake

for the recipe i worked from --> http://www.cooks.com/rec/doc/0,176,151177-235201,00.html


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