Friday, October 21, 2005

Black Walnuts

We've got a lot of native Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) trees around our place.



A couple hang over the path to the chicken coop. I've started wondering if I should be wearing a hardhat when I let the chickens out in the morning.

I'm not that wild about the taste of walnuts, so I haven't shelled many of them. It's easy to get the husks off - you run over them with your car. If you're driving down a rural road and see a line of black stuff in a gravel driveway, you know that person has walnuts.

But getting the meat out of the shell is a different matter. Not easy at all. Someone told me there was a specific type of cracker that would get the nut out cleanly, but I've never seen one.

There are a lot of things you can't plant near walnut trees, due to the toxic juglone that their roots produce. I guess they don't like a lot of competition.

29 comments:

pablo said...

Pecans have a different shaped shell, but on the Farm Tour last year (and tomorrow!) we saw a machine at the pecan orchard that sort of "shocks" the shell off the pecans. It leaves the shell in place, but it is so shattered that it is easy to pick off with your fingers. And usually the meat of the pecan is still whole. Perhaps that is how walnuts are cracked as well.

Wayne said...

Yay! Karen hits the sweet spot again!

Yesterday I was walking through our own wild walnut groves and noting how many trees were producing nuts. (This seems to happen on a two-year cycle - last year there was nothing.)

I'm talking about thousands of them. And I'm thinking - is there an easy way to harvest them? I'd heard about running them over with the car.

If you've tried to pull the husks off the nut (let alone try to crack the nut within) then you know about intensely yellow-stained fingers.

Even when you do, you find that SOMEBODY has burrowed within to eat out the goodies.

Finally - pecans are Carya species, a hickory, with very thin shells. Walnuts (Juglans) are an entirely different matter! I know that shell shocker you're talking about, Pablo. No way would it work with walnuts, although what you're talking about is absolutely excellent with pecans.

KFarmer said...

Ever run a walnut over with a lawn mower? Watch out! That thing is a bullet :0

Hick said...

Oh I love the taste of black walnuts, but they are impossible to get the shell off. We used to use a hammer, but the nut would get all smashed up.

We have sugar pines that drop large yummy pinenuts all over the yard...then it's a race to gather them up before the squirrels get them. However, it's a lot of work to get the shells off for such a tiny nut...no wonder they cost so much a Trader Joes.

LauraJ said...

I am told you can make a very nice dark dye with the hulls, probably after you run over the nuts.

Colleen said...

What a great picture! Nice perspective. My mother-in-law has a black walnut tree in her yard...tons of walnuts in the backyard, driveway and front yard. They do stain ya know. On the deck there's a pile of walnut pieces and a series of squirrel pawprints! I kid you not! It's too cute.

weldergirl said...

The juice from the black walnut husk (the part that stains) is a VERY powerful antifungal also. To me its stronger that any OTC meds I've tried. It will kill ringworm, athelete's foot etc. You can get black walnut tincture at any good health food store that won't stain your skin. Course, if you don't mind the color, the nuts are cheaper!

TurtleHeart said...

Love the walnut photo. Reminds me of visiting my grandma & grandpa's when I was little. They had a walnut tree growing in the middle of the dirt driveway. It was surrounded by mulberry bushes. We ate alot of mulberries, but couldn't ever figure out how to get to the walnuts. Seems I recall the husks had a spicy smell? Nice memories.

Jolie said...

turtleheart, I was just going to say something about the smell too! Growing up, our next door neighbors had a black walnut that hung over our yard. As kids we used to rub them on the sidewalk so we could smell them. Cracking into them was absolutely beyond us.

I read recently that those really long handled pliers (forget their name) are good for cracking tough nuts. I'm assuming because their long handles give you more leverage, and you could set it to not close enough to destroy the meat. Haven't had the chance to try it yet though, so this is all theoretical.

Dana said...

My grandparent's have black walnut trees in their yard too and, growing up, we would collect them for my grandfather. I don't know how he got into them and I never asked. ;)

Ron said...

MMmmmmm, black walnuts!

We stopped at a produce stand in the Valley on the way back from Bodie, and as I didn't see any, I asked the guy at the counter about them. He said they weren't ripe yet, in most of the area. Well, it has been a weird year.

Anonymous said...

Lots of walnuts here in our part of Kansas this year. Huge until you hull them and then the nut is much smaller than usual. Which, of course, the old timers say means a very bad winter coming. We are overdue. So, excuse me, I'd better go split some more wood.

Ontario Wanderer said...

It was interesting to read about all the walnut memories and ideas in the comment section. You do have a way to get people's interest. I too have many walnut memories. We used to collect them in Kansas and dry them on wire screens. There was some sort of machine that my grandfather had that would take the hulls off and then there was the cracking. (I suppose the pliars (vicegrips) might work but my father and grandfather used to sit in the basement with a hammer and a section of log that had a depression in it to keep the walnut in place. A gentle hit just at the right place (who knows where now) would open the nut and then the meat had to be teased out with a small metal pick. It was something like a destist's tool. Then, finally, by Christmas time we had walnuts in homemade candies and cookies. My mouth waters at the memory. I also remember Black Walnut Ice Cream. It was a taste that was incredible. I had one scoop from Baskins & Robbins here in Ontario, about 20 years ago, that I still remember but have not seen any since. Meanwhile, in my present life I am tripping daily over the walnuts from the trees in our yard. I saved some on screens, like the old days, last fall and then did not take time to crack any. This past month, I have used the walnut shell stains to stain some canvas for paintings that I am now working on. It gives an earthy tone that I like and then there are all the memories.....

Floridacracker said...

I have few walnut memories having grown up south of their natural range. I did buy a book called, "Planting Black Walnut For Profit" years ago, before I knew that little fact.
If any of you walnuts want it, first come first serve.
natcoast@msn.com

Rurality said...

Thanks for all the comments!

I've noticed the two-year cycle too. Last year there were not many at all. Lots this year, even though many of them dropped early from the early spring storm damage. I'll have to open a few to see if the nuts themselves are smaller.

As for harvesting them, I don't know any other way except the traditional "bend over and pick them up" method. They make a doohickey for picking up pecans but I've never seen one for walnuts.

I knew about the dye/stain from the hulls, and had heard of the medicinal value too... but have never put any of it into practice myself. (I'd wondered before how to use it medicinally without staining your skin! I wonder how they get the tincture without getting the staining properties too?)

Yeah the old hammer method is what I used before. Hadn't thought about using something with an indentation to hold the nut though.

The black bits from the hulls in the driveway take forever to go away, but they do disappear eventually. At least our did.

Some critters will definitely take advantage of your free hulling service! And leave you the empty shells to taunt you.

Now if we had a pine nut producing tree I might try a little harder... to me they taste better than walnuts!

Oh yeah now I'm gonna have to go smell the husks! I don't remember a smell to them, but maybe my nose was full of soap scents. :)

swamp4me said...

I'm with you about the taste of black walnuts - not my favorite. Hubby loves them though, so every once in a great while I make him a black walnut pie.

yllstonewolf said...

like jolie, my sister and i used to dye the driveway with the balck walnut hulls. we were able to turn our hands and the soles of our shoes a lovely hue at the same time. (my mom was SO impressed!!)in addition to dye, you can also make writing ink from black walnut 'pigment'. it is not very long lasting though and fades pretty quickly.

KatKit13 said...

My gramma used to run over the walnuts too! I love that memory. And our fingers would get so nasty when we hulled them, but there's nothing better than a black walnut!

Someday I'll tell you about the giant blackberries she had. ;)

fabrication said...

I've enjoyed your blog for a while and had to comment with yet another walnut-opening method, from my Uncle Freddie. He lets the walnuts sit around for a while until they get kinda rotten, then pushes them through a one inch hole drilled in a board...the nuts will fit through but the shells won't.

Thanks for keeping such a nice blog and for the beautiful pictures!

Rurality said...

Swampy if I end up figuring out how to get the meats without much trouble I'll hit you up for the recipe! I'm not much of a baker though. I'm sort of baking-challenged.

Hey YSW, disappearing ink huh?! I keep wanting to write a letter with poke berry juice or elderberry juice someday...

KitKat you'll be so disappointed to learn that I'm not wild about blackberries either... :) And I might as well tell you that I'm the only person on the planet who dislikes cheesecake.

Fabrication, that's just to get the hulls off though, right?

Anonymous said...

Growing up in Illinois we would go "nut hunting". 30 some years later I can still smell the walnuts.

Anonymous said...

Here is a site for black walnut crackers. There are tons of other places to buy them. Here in Kansas you can buy them in the hardware stores.
http://www.gardenersbranch.com/products.php?pid=4263&openparent=1471

Anonymous said...

Here is a site for black walnut crackers. There are tons of other places to buy them. Here in Kansas you can buy them in the hardware stores.
http://www.gardenersbranch.com/products.php?pid=4263&openparent=1471

Anonymous said...

Marsha says: Growing up my Godfather used to pay me for every sack of walnuts that I collected for him. He would crack them in his house all winter long. Now days I go out and pick them up but the barrel fulls and cell them to an amish man to be sold to a big company in Wisconsin. Lots of walnut trees in Indiana.

Anonymous said...

Valerie Says... I found a hard shell nut cracker in the Jung Seed catalog they have a web address if you want to check it out www.jungseed.com, I bought it last year it works great. still takes a little elbow grease though. nutmeats usually come out in 1/4 sections. hope you find it useful.

Anonymous said...

I have used a bandsaw to halve walnuts fo meat extraction. This method work well and can be done with the hull on the walnut.

Anonymous said...

An old corn sheller from a flea market will easily remove the husks once the are either dried or partially dried.

Anonymous said...

I live in southeast kansas near Pittsburg, Kansas. I am looking for someone to hull and crack my walnuts. Does anyone know where I can get this done? Kim

Cdr Curtis said...

I have two black walnut trees, the meat in walnuts from one are good, the other appears good but when they dry they shrivel up to nothing. Can anyone tell me why and have any of you encountered this?