Black Walnuts

Fall is so rich and full of new sights, delicious smells, and memorable tastes. But the sounds of fall are what have been standing out to me the most lately. Especially the particular thunk of black walnuts as they fall from the trees and hit the ground below. I did a little reading on how to process black walnuts and found out that the outer husk is usually green when it drops, and that you have to wait for it to turn dark before harvesting the nutmeat.

I’m curious, do any of you process black walnuts where you are and what do you do with them?


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About Brie Aronson

Brie Aronson came to Polyface from southern California. During college, she was diagnosed with food allergies and had to begin asking about the source of every single thing she put in her mouth. This led to an interest in all things food and she sought out a way to learn how it can be produced ethically and sustainably. Her desire is to help people shift their focus from counting calories, being intimidated by their kitchens, and being disconnected from the land to one that experiences the life-giving enjoyment of food. Having completed the internship in summer 2010, she now assists with the buying clubs and sales building, leads school tours of the farm, and will be the summer 2012 farm cook.

11 Responses to Black Walnuts

  1. Karen Smith says:

    Last year I picked up a bucketful of black walnuts. I left them in the bucket all winter, intending to throw them in the driveway and run over them to get off the outer peel. Several times it rained, then the rain froze in the bucket. In spring I said to myself that I’d just “chunk” them because they were probably no good but what the heck I’ll pop them into a seed tray. I did, stuck the tray under a misting table. Lo and behold about 10 days later comething came up in it. I said to myself “What is that weed that is coming up in my black walnut seed tray” and it was the black walnut seed that germinated! I grew them out, potted them up and I now have 26 3′ tall black walnut trees!

  2. Dot says:

    We have multiple black walnut trees on our farm. They are notoriously hard to open! The green husk is very hard to get open, so much so that my husband’s mom used to put them on the road and run over them with the car to crack them! If anyone knows and easier way, I’d love to hear it!

  3. Abiga/Karen says:

    I would love to know about black walnuts too. My daughter has about 8 or more trees on her property but the trees don’t look that healthy,not leafed outgood and yellowed leaves. When we have tried to look into them to harvest they have bugs or worms so we gave up.Plus the whole issue with how stained hands can get from them. Just ask the grand kids playing food with them. They would like to get a pig one day as we heard pigs can eat them. And I heard a big thunk one day as I went to visit them,on my car roof, with a dent to prove it too. lol Blessings in your future endeavors there.

  4. Michael says:

    Hi Brie,

    We have a ton of walnuts from our two trees in the backyard here in Waynesboro, VA. We have no idea how to process them and it seems a shame to let them go to waste when we might be able to eat natural walnuts with no preservatives. I read in your bio that you have food allergies. I just developed a very serious one to MSG at the age of 41 and am now learning about reconnecting to local farms with local produce. I’d be interested in seeing if anyone knows a bit more about walnuts and how to process them.

  5. Andy says:

    My wife and I harvested black walnuts for the first time this year and we love them. We gathered primarily all-green ones that had recently fallen from the trees. I scored the husk in half with a utlity knife and separated the husk from the nut. I rinsed all the nuts (in a pile) in a close grated milk crate under running water agressively agitating them while I rinse to remove almost all remaining husk. I slow baked them in the oven for 90 minutes at 250 degrees. Cracking them is most effective with a hammer and separating the broken sections with snipping pliers. I basically followed this YouTube video “How to Harvest and Crack Black Walnuts” posted by “pocklecod” with the exeption of slow-roasting them. Enjoy!

  6. Susan Hamilton says:

    My father’s family is from West Virginia, and here’s how they process the nuts. Don’t bother trying to remove the green husk. Dry them, single layer, in the sun (somewhere where the squirrels can’t find them) or try putting them in a mesh bag (like a potato bag, or even an old pantyhose leg) and hang them somewhere dry. You want to let the green husks turn black, but not to rot or mold. Once the outsides are shrunken and black, they’re much easier to remove (wear surgical gloves unless you want black-walnut colored hands). The nut will NOT be rotten. Clean the shells off, let them air dry, store them in buckets to “age”. In my family the “aging” lasted until the holiday baking season. Crack them open and use.

    If you see any shelled black walnuts in grocery stores, you know how expensive they are! If you have trees, harvest some and leave some for the critters, who “process” them with no apparent problems at all. 🙂

  7. Dalles Hayes says:

    Sorry, I have no experience with harvesting them for personal use but it seems like there are many others that do. I would just like to add that if we had access to black walnuts I would look into feeding them in small quantities to our pigs, along with acorns and any other similar nut species that are in excess.

  8. Susan Hamilton says:

    Dalles, pigs fed nuts are a great delicacy!

  9. Nathaniel Preheim says:

    A commercial potato peeler is the best way to get the husk off. We processed a bunch (25000) this way and have had plenty of ‘nut’ parties; getting together and cracking them open with friends. Lehmans has a great fulcrum based cracker that can handle the super hard shell.

  10. Paula Wolfe says:

    We gather black walnuts every year. Wearing a tough boot I “wallow” the husks from the nuts and pop the wet, black walnut into a crate to dry. Forceful water hosing will clean them further before storing to dry. Spread to dry so they do not mold in stacks. About six months later crack each nut with a hammer and allow to stand for a few days while the nutmeat pulls loose from the inner shell crevices. I then dump the bucketful of cracked nuts into a pre-built sieve (wooden fram with 1/4″ welded wire stretched on it”. The dust and tiny shells and meats fall through the holes and I just pick up and use the nutmeats. I do this partly because I have trouble seeing whether the tiny nutmeats are nuts or shell fragments.

  11. Donna Gattis says:

    In the fall as the outer skins of the walnuts are turning black and mushy, I wear my clean muck boots and a pair of surgical gloves covered over with a pair of thin gardening gloves. When I just used surgical gloves, the rough surface of the walnut would tear open the glove and my fingertips were stained. With hammer in hand, I step/roll on the black mushy outer skin of the walnut to remove the black skin and use the hammer to knock off the skin of the walnuts that are not so mushy. These I toss in a plastic milk crate and leave in the rain for the rain to wash off the rest of the black tar on the outside of the wood shelled nut. (I never thought to put a water hose to them at this stage and will try that this year) When the nuts are brown and dry, I crack open the extremely hard shell with a hammer on a brick or rock and then toss the broken walnut into a plastic bowl to pick out the nut meat later. When picking out the meat, I have 3 piles I put the walnut in. One pile of walnut meat, one pile of picked shell and one pile of shell with still some nut left in that I can’t get out. This third pile I will take a hammer to it again and start the process all over. I keep the meat in the freezer to use in recipes later. Black walnuts have a distinct nutty taste.