Happy Peeps

September 18, 2011

Black Walnuts

Black Walnut Leaves with Nuts
OK so this has nothing to do with the chickens, but some days I'm lacking material. Thought I'd tell you about my first time this year of harvesting black walnuts in our yard.  I started to gather up all the black walnuts that had fallen from the tree a couple of weeks ago. If you haven't seen one, black walnuts come in a protective, fibrous green casing, making them resemble green tennis balls; their shape causes our nuts to roll to the bottom of the hill they're growing on (making them easy to find and retrieve, I must say). The process of preparing the nut for its final cracking though is one that takes weeks, I am coming to learn. 
Black Walnut & Husk
I placed them one at a time on the sidewalk, and held a sledgehammer over them, lightly letting it fall onto the casings. The weight smashed the casing enough that I could tear it off, revealing the nut in its shell, which then has to be tossed into a bucket of water and washed. You can also do this by stomping with your boot, but they do splatter a bit, and I had read that the associated splatter would stain anything it came into contact with, so I opted for using my boyfriend's sledgehammer.  If the nuts are fresh like the one above, I found them to be light in color.  I picked up one of them with my bare hands and noticed it had left a light yellow stain on my fingers, so wear gloves! As they begin to deterioriate, the hulls become black, with an oily-like substance on the inside around the nut. The roots, nut hulls and leaves secrete a substance into the soil called juglone that can kill other plants. This black, oily substance will also stain anything it comes into contact with, so it was commonly used as a dye/stain for all kinds of things. I'm trying to think of something to dye, just to try it out!
Some resources informed me that the nuts, once hulled, have to be cured, by drying for six weeks. In a video I found on Youtube, I saw a man remove the hull, crack the nut open with a rock, and then proceed to eat the nut which he claimed to be delicious. I guess I'll go with the curing method only because it seemed to be well researched.

I have some old window screens that I'm going to spread them out on and try to keep them in the sun as much as possible while we still have some good weather. Then they'll be stored in the basement on newspaper (if you have a lot, don't leave them in a pile, they have to be spread out) where the squirrels can't get at them. I don't have that many.

Does anyone have any comments on black walnuts, or recipes they want to share?

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