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Monday, October 18, 2010


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I had no idea that the black walnut fruit would look like decaying golden spheres––apples? citrus?––lying on the ground. A quilter friend uses them to make a rich brown dye. On wikipedia it says that the nuts taste better when the husk is still green. It sounds like a difficult process, so I can understand why you haven't as yet attempted it.

Lisa at Greenbow

I don't like them so I can't help you. My Mother used to collect them and make cookies with the meats. I was so young I just knew I wasn't to touch them or get them on my clothes due to the staining. I didn't ever learn to appreciate them. The darned squirrels plant them in our garden from who knows were. I would be wearing a hard hat outside right now. Those things do hurt when they hit you.


If you can find a copy of it, the book "Stocking Up" has instructions for preparing and storing walnuts for the season. They suggest making a wooden "trough" slightly wider than your car tire and driving over the nuts. I also think that they found the nuts stored better unshelled.

We have tons of these trees all over our little town, and it is quite a pain to navigate a baby stroller through the mess!


We have the exact same problem with them, Linda, neighbor's trees. This has been a banner year, and we will have baby walnut trees growing everywhere thanks to the planting by squirrels. We have used them for dye for basket making. Boiling them in a large pot not used for anything else. We throw them back over the fence!


I have these come up all through my garden, but there are no trees overhanging the garden. I will blame squirrels. I have no recipes for you as this is not my favorite nut. I find them a little too musky.


Thanks for all this advice; the book sounds particularly useful. I can't imagine navigating a stroller through this mess; nor can I quite picture throwing them back over the fence!

Lancashire Rose

I remember seeing a bottle of pickled black walnuts on our pantry shelf. They were made by Heinz, for whom my father worked. Sometimes they sell black walnuts at the Christmas nut sale so there must be a market for them. Go for it!

Curt Heuer

If you want to gather the nuts for eating, you should get the husk off while they're still relatively green. Once they husks turn black or dry out they're harder to get off. I use a stout piece of wood (a 2' - 2x4) and put the nut on a solid surface, like a concrete block and whack it with the 2x4. Give it a good solid whack and the husk should split and you'll have the nut, in its shell, left. Don't worry about breaking the shell - they're pretty tough. I have friend in Indiana who used to put her's into a burlap sack and run over them with her car to remove the husks. I don't think that worked as well. Be careful with the husks they'll start to turn dark as soon as the air hits the broken surface and they will stain anything they touch. Wear gloves and old clothes. In the 19th century, kids in some schools were required to bring in black walnut husks to be used to make the ink they'd use in their lessons. Don't try to compost the husks, they contain a compound called juglans that will kill or at least inhibit the growth of other plants (tomatoes, eggplants and peppers are particularly susceptible. After husking, I let the nuts dry/cure for a month or so (up to a year) before shelling them (a good mid-winter project). Getting the nut meat out of the shell requires some effort. I use a 3# hammer and put a nut on a solid surface and pound the shell to crack it. It takes some practice to get the right force to crack the shell without pulverizing it. You'll probably have to crack the shell into 4s to get the nut meat out. Lots of work but worth it and you'll appreciate why the already shelled nuts are so expensive.

Kim Courson

Hi, Linda! I'm originally from MI and now live in Japan. I remember helping Mom with the black walnuts. She drove over them with the car, used latex gloves when touching them to take the hulls off. We would dry them in the basement on newspapers for a couple months, then hammer them open and use the nut picks that everyone uses at Christmastime to take out the meats. We froze the meats until we needed them. They were ok for a year that way. We use them in banana bread and fudge recipes. HTH!


Linda, the above is a great ref for all things walnut. I personally use walnuts more for breads and cakes because of its stronger taste and denseness. I also will use it to sprinkle on desserts if I am out of pecans.

You might check with local pecan crackers and inquire as to their ability to crack the outer shell for you.

Barbara H.

The comments were fun to read, and your post took me back to Michigan to the house where one of my sisters still lives. The yard is full of black walnut trees and they are hazardous! We never used them, just collected them as trash. I felt a little guilty until I read above how intensive the process is. Thanks for the journey back in time.

Julie Siegel

The comments are all fascinating...but let's not neglect recognizing Mark's terrific photos. Maybe a photo essay on the various personalities of Black Walnut?

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