Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How to harvest Black Walnuts


1. Collect the nuts that have fallen. Some walnut trees are very tall so picking them off the branches is out of the question. Plus, picking them can sometimes damage the tree limbs, so just wait for them to fall and gather them up. Be sure to wear heavy duty rubber gloves as the cheap disposables will not work.
2. Get the green hull off of the walnut. As black walnuts ripen, the husk changes from solid green to yellowish green. Walnut juice leaves a dark stain, so wear gloves or use tongs when you handle unhusked walnuts. Press on the skin of the walnut with your thumb; ripe nuts will show an indentation. Removal can be done by just taking a small jack knife and cutting around the hull and peeling off, or you can lay them on the driveway and run over them with your car! It often is just as easy to roll them under your foot until the hull is cracked open, pick them up and peel the hull off. For an easy way to separate the hulls, put them in water. The hulls float, the nuts don't.
3. Dispose of the hull in a garbage bag or place somewhere in a pile in your yard to decompose. Do not place them in your compost pile as it is uncertain what they could do if used on a garden for food. The stain on them is pretty pungent and strong.
4. Lay out your brown hard shell nut to dry. You can lay them out on a layer of newspapers to dry for a few days or longer. Some people leave them for much longer. The dryer the nut, the easier the nut meat is to remove. You also can store them in the shell in a dry, squirrel proof area. Do not lay them out where the squirrels can find them. They will take every one they can.
5. To crack open your nuts you can use a hammer or a vise. The vise does not do as much damage to the walnut meat inside. This part can be a bit tricky and can take some time. If you don't have time on your hands you will not like doing the harvesting of these nuts. You cannot be in a hurry in this step or you will damage the nut meat.
6. Pull the nut meat out. If you can and if it is stubborn, you can use a commercial nut pick (usually can buy these and the nutcracker around holiday season in grocery stores or any time of the year in cooking supply stores). If you are just using the nuts for a black walnut cake, it does not matter if they are broken up badly. This is perfect for the cake.
7. Dispose of the nut shell in whatever manner you prefer. Remember these things are really hard and can be sharp so don't leave them where someone can step on them.
8. Eat the nut fresh or save for later. Some species of walnut trees have different flavors. Some are stronger than others.

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