In Season: Black Walnuts

IMG_5880It has been a year of bumper crops. All the trees and bushes have been producing tons of fruit. The nut trees are no exception.

I’ve been picking up black walnuts on walks across town and hikes in the parks. I’ve also been finding them in great heaps at the village composting site. Talk about easy pickings. I gathered boxes of the biggest nuts and brought them home to hull and dry.

The hulls on most of the nuts I picked up were still green. I have heard of people laying the nuts on their driveway and running over them with the car as they come and go to rid them of their shells. It sounds like a mess to me. It is simple enough to dump them in a black plastic oil changing tray and step on them with the heel of my boot. The nut squirts out like the pit out of an olive (more or less), and I pick it out of the shells. I dispose of the shells in the trash in paper bags or take them out to the compost site on my next visit.

IMG_5791I rinse the nuts several times in a bucket of water after shelling them, agitating them with a broom handle or small rake. To avoid brown-stained hands, I wear rubber gloves. The rinse water will kill other plants, so I dump it on one of my wood chipped paths where it won’t do any harm.

IMG_5864The nuts will need to dry before I bring them into the house or garage for storage. I spread them on my cement patio and turn them periodically until they are dry. The nuts will keep at normal house temperature through the winter and can be left in colder areas. Freezing doesn’t harm them.

IMG_5862The nuts need to be protected from rodents at all times. I used the wire cover from an outdoor fire pit for some of them and a bread tray lined with hardware cloth for larger amounts of nuts. I weighted the covers to discourage squirrels.

After the nuts have dried for a few weeks, we will start to shell them. Euell Gibbon’s technique is to strike the pointed end of the nut with a hammer until it breaks in half, and do the same with the halves and the quarters until the nut is broken into eighths at which time the nut meats should fall out of the shell in the correct size pieces for baking. This takes practice but what better way to while away those long winter evenings? Begonia

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