Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the society.

Photo

Black Walnuts Straight from the Tree


  • Please log in to reply
37 replies to this topic

#1 fresco

fresco
  • participating member
  • 3,330 posts
  • Location:Toronto

Posted 21 July 2003 - 10:46 AM

We have a black walnut tree in the back yard, hanging just over our deck. Last year it bore a bumper crop, which was a pain in the ass, because the squirrels worked overtime chewing the outer hull and spitting it down on us.
But they are supposed to be unusually tasty, and rather than just get pissed off at the tree and the squirrels, I'd like to harvest and hull a bunch when the next bumper crop rolls around next year. Anyone have any experience with these things?
Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

#2 melkor

melkor
  • legacy participant
  • 2,554 posts
  • Location:Northern California

Posted 21 July 2003 - 10:55 AM

I'd skip it, but - if you want to give it a shot:

collect the walnuts - preferably after the squirrels have chewed off the hull (otherwise you have to remove it)
crack them open using a hammer, don't use a rolling pin - it'll end up with giant dents in it (or so I've heard :hmmm:)
pick the meaty bits out from inside the shells and roast them at 350*F for 5 or 10 minutes
eat one, realize that they don't taste very good, leave remaining black walnuts for the squirrels

#3 jackal10

jackal10
  • participating member
  • 5,036 posts

Posted 21 July 2003 - 10:56 AM

Too late for this year, but pick them green, before the shells form (June 24th is the traditional date) and pickle them.

You won't defeat the squirrels - they get up earlier than you do. They are ruthless and cunning. You could try netting, but they chew through it. An old pair of tights over a branch sometimes works. Shotgun?

#4 fresco

fresco
  • participating member
  • 3,330 posts
  • Location:Toronto

Posted 21 July 2003 - 11:04 AM

I knew hulling them was a pain in the ass, but where does all this stuff come from about black walnuts being a rare delicacy? It sounds like I might be better off harvesting the squirrels. There are certainly plenty of them and they're well fed.
Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

#5 melkor

melkor
  • legacy participant
  • 2,554 posts
  • Location:Northern California

Posted 21 July 2003 - 11:05 AM

I knew hulling them was a pain in the ass, but where does all this stuff come from about black walnuts being a rare delicacy? It sounds like I might be better off harvesting the squirrels. There are certainly plenty of them and they're well fed.

It comes from people who have black walnut trees in their yard trying to convince their neighbors to take some of them.

#6 fresco

fresco
  • participating member
  • 3,330 posts
  • Location:Toronto

Posted 21 July 2003 - 11:08 AM

The tree hangs over into my neighbor's yard and they whine endlessly about it in season. But then, they whine endlessly.
Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

#7 =Mark

=Mark
  • participating member
  • 2,742 posts

Posted 21 July 2003 - 11:18 AM

The nuts don't taste very good and the shells are shatteringly hard. The outer hull also will stain everything and anything including human skin. I remember ours used to delight in bonking me on the head & shoulders with ripe fruit. :angry: Your best bet is to find a supplier of wood for furniture or cabinet makers to sell it to. An unblemished, large black walnut tree can be worth thousands.
=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.
Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.
Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

#8 fresco

fresco
  • participating member
  • 3,330 posts
  • Location:Toronto

Posted 21 July 2003 - 11:44 AM

Mark,
We have thought a lot about cutting down the tree just to get rid of the nuisance and hazard. But doing so would probably net me a life sentence, the city of Toronto bureaucracy being what it is.
Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

#9 melkor

melkor
  • legacy participant
  • 2,554 posts
  • Location:Northern California

Posted 21 July 2003 - 12:00 PM

We have thought a lot about cutting down the tree just to get rid of the nuisance and hazard. But doing so would probably net me a life sentence, the city of Toronto bureaucracy being what it is.

Call them up the city, explain what a rare and wonderful delicacy the nuts are and offer to share your bounty with them.

#10 Jason Perlow

Jason Perlow
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 13,501 posts
  • Location:FL

Posted 21 July 2003 - 12:02 PM

Chop the sucker down for firewood for use in meat smoking.
Jason Perlow
Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters
offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | My Flickr photo stream

#11 sparrowgrass

sparrowgrass
  • participating member
  • 1,346 posts

Posted 21 July 2003 - 12:57 PM

Pick the nuts up after they fall, put them in a burlap bag in the driveway and run over them until the hulls are gone. WEAR GLOVES when you take them out of the bag--black walnut hulls make a particularly good (read permanent) dark brown dye. Let them sit in a warm dry place for a couple of weeks, shell (a big hammer and a chunk of railroad iron is traditional here) and use for black walnut pie or in chocolate chip cookies.

I don't like them, but people here pay premium prices for them.

I am not sure you want to use walnut wood for smoking--I think it would leave a bitter taste. If you want to sample some walnut smoked pork butt or whatever, just cut up some small branches with your pruning shears and toss them in the grill--that is what I do with the hickory in the back yard.
sparrowgrass

#12 fresco

fresco
  • participating member
  • 3,330 posts
  • Location:Toronto

Posted 21 July 2003 - 01:01 PM

"Call them up the city, explain what a rare and wonderful delicacy the nuts are and offer to share your bounty with them."

They'd probably charge me with being an unlicenced food vendor. A few years ago, when I was renovating a tiny Victorian house on a tiny Victorian lot (12 feet wide) I was preparing to remove an enormous spruce tree that some idiot had planted right in front of the house at some point. It took up the entire front yard and blocked every bit of natural light from both main floor and second floor windows.
In the midst of this, I had a visit from some guy who called himself the "chief urban forester" who informed me that he could charge me, fine me some incredible amount etc etc. but upon checking their regulations he realized it was an "inappropriate species" and they would remove it for me.
Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

#13 melkor

melkor
  • legacy participant
  • 2,554 posts
  • Location:Northern California

Posted 21 July 2003 - 01:04 PM

With any luck you'll find that black walnuts are an "inappropriate species" and you'll be rid of the thing..

#14 fresco

fresco
  • participating member
  • 3,330 posts
  • Location:Toronto

Posted 21 July 2003 - 01:08 PM

No such luck. I live in fear that the city will find out it is there and designate it a "heritage tree" or some such. When we bought this place a few years ago I did remove six poplars that had taken root and grown to great heights through the negligence of past owners. Black walnuts are spoken of in reverent whispers hereabouts.
Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

#15 mrbigjas

mrbigjas
  • participating member
  • 3,573 posts

Posted 21 July 2003 - 07:59 PM

Black walnuts have this odd flavor that is unique to them and very tasty to some of us, and they are also a bitch to crack open and prepare. Hence the premium prices. But yeah, they're pretty but annoying trees to actually have near you.

#16 Foam Pants

Foam Pants
  • participating member
  • 128 posts

Posted 21 July 2003 - 10:30 PM

Do what my neighbor always did and put a god awful amount of them at the base of your driveway, put chicken wire over them, and run over them all fall. Leaves interesting skid marks in your garage. I say it is worth it, I love the taste of them. You can always chuck the damn things at the authorities when they try to arrest you for cutting the thing down. Walnut makes lovely cheese boards. Why, you could eat Stilton with the walnuts you ran over on the board made from the flesh of their mother. Sick and twisted!
9 out of 10 dentists recommend wild Alaska salmon.

#17 brreynolds

brreynolds
  • legacy participant
  • 3 posts
  • Location:Washington DC

Posted 22 July 2003 - 05:42 AM

I'm surprised at all of the animosity toward the flavor of black walnuts in this thread; I happen to love them and have been playing around with them as substitutes for other kinds of nuts in various dishes. Anything that has Persian walnuts in should be good, although different, with black walnuts, and they combine spectacularly with chocolate.

They are beast to crack, and they don't separate into halves like Persian walnuts. After many years of experimenting on bags of black walnuts that my uncle gave my dad, he concluded that the way to crack them with the least frustration was to use a vice. If you have a well-stock workroom in the house, stick them in the vise and crank down until they start to crack. THen carefully give them with a fraction of a last turn, to avoid explosive shattering. You should have then cracked the shell enough to dig the nutmeat out.

#18 mrbigjas

mrbigjas
  • participating member
  • 3,573 posts

Posted 22 July 2003 - 06:27 AM

I'm surprised at all of the animosity toward the flavor of black walnuts in this thread; I happen to love them and have been playing around with them as substitutes for other kinds of nuts in various dishes.

I know, that's what caught me off-guard too--I knew the trees were a pain to have around, and I knew the nuts were tough to crack, but I didn't know people didn't like them, also...

#19 melkor

melkor
  • legacy participant
  • 2,554 posts
  • Location:Northern California

Posted 22 July 2003 - 07:25 AM

I'd suspect that several board members would be willing to send boxes full of them to anyone willing to pay shipping...

#20 =Mark

=Mark
  • participating member
  • 2,742 posts

Posted 22 July 2003 - 07:30 AM

It would appear taste wise that black walnuts are the cilantro of the nut world.
=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.
Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.
Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

#21 fresco

fresco
  • participating member
  • 3,330 posts
  • Location:Toronto

Posted 22 July 2003 - 07:31 AM

Think we have the beginnings here of a "vastly overrated food that is not worth the trouble" thread.
Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

#22 sparrowgrass

sparrowgrass
  • participating member
  • 1,346 posts

Posted 22 July 2003 - 08:27 AM

It would appear taste wise that black walnuts are the cilantro of the nut world.

Mark, I believe you have hit the nail on the head. Strong flavor that permeates every bite of a dish is hard to ignore.

I think I will grow to like cilantro long before I will enjoy black walnuts, however.

Another problem with black walnut trees is that they are the last to get their leaves in the spring, and the first to lose them in the fall, so you spend 7 or 8 months of the year with a tree that looks dead.
sparrowgrass

#23 KateW

KateW
  • legacy participant
  • 812 posts

Posted 22 July 2003 - 08:33 AM

It would appear taste wise that black walnuts are the cilantro of the nut world.

Thank you, I now know to stay away from them. :biggrin:

#24 Jim Dixon

Jim Dixon
  • participating member
  • 1,327 posts
  • Location:Portland, Oregon, USA

Posted 22 July 2003 - 01:22 PM

You might be able to make nocino from the green ones.

Jim
olive oil + salt
Real Good Food

#25 mikey

mikey
  • participating member
  • 117 posts

Posted 22 July 2003 - 03:53 PM

People seem to either love them or hate them; I love them. They are positively a pain in the ass to process. When I was a child, my father would sit in the basement with a flat iron and hammer cracking them(they always seem to have been available hulled-I think I remember that the farm co-op had a huller). We then spent a great deal of time picking them. They're the only nuts I think absolutely require a nut pick. There was always a cottage industry (in central Missouri) selling picked nuts, but we must have thought that was an unecessary luxury. Recently I saw picked nuts by the bag in Sam's Club, so they are comercially available. I think they go great with chocolate(but then what nut doesn't). I think it's about time to bake a pan of brownies.
edit- They have absolutely no decorative value(the nuts, that is-the shells have been used for all kinds of carvings): in 56 years I have never seen a whole kernal.

Edited by mikey, 22 July 2003 - 03:57 PM.


#26 Carrot Top

Carrot Top
  • legacy participant
  • 4,164 posts

Posted 24 November 2005 - 09:18 PM

In the back yard of my house (that we moved to this summer) is a huge tree. This fall it started dropping huge green golfball-like things all over the yard and onto the roof by the hundreds with resounding thuds! for about a six week period. I looked at them and smelled them. They smelled a bit like camphor.

I'm not a country girl, though I did do a stretch in rural Appalachia for four years where I learned lots about hay and fescue. So I did not know what these green golf-balls were.

The guy that mows the lawn was here the other day so I asked him.

"Black walnuts" was his reply. "Pain in the neck."

They do look rather awe-inspiring in terms of cleaning and prepping. I'm thinking I need a porch and a rocking chair for the task, with a lazy hound dog to lay at my feet for hours to keep me company while I hull and clean them.

Have you ever prepared black walnuts straight from the tree? Is it "worth it"?
Are there any tips on how to best do it?

What recipes have you used them in?

Edited by Carrot Top, 24 November 2005 - 09:19 PM.


#27 azureus

azureus
  • participating member
  • 209 posts
  • Location:Eastern South Dakota

Posted 24 November 2005 - 10:31 PM

In the back yard of my house (that we moved to this summer) is a huge tree. This fall it started dropping huge green golfball-like things all over the yard and onto the roof by the hundreds with resounding thuds! for about a six week period. I looked at them and smelled them. They smelled a bit like camphor.

The guy that mows the lawn was here the other day so I asked him.

"Black walnuts" was his reply. "Pain in the neck."

They do look rather awe-inspiring in terms of cleaning and prepping. I'm thinking I need a porch and a rocking chair for the task, with a lazy hound dog to lay at my feet for hours to keep me company while I hull and clean them.

Have you ever prepared black walnuts straight from the tree? Is it "worth it"?
Are there any tips on how to best do it?

What recipes have you used them in?

View Post


There's no easy way to get the job done, and those husks will leave a nice brown stain on everything that comes in contact with them. Definitely wear gloves and old clothing. I shelled many as a kid, never found it fun or easy, and I didn't like the stronger taste. I guess I'm still not over my Black Walnut Shell Shock!

My Mom used them in any recipe that called for English walnuts, my Dad and brother just liked to eat them plain.

Actually, if you can find a trained squirrel to husk and shell the nuts for you. . . The problem is convincing the rodent to share the walnuts afterward.

Here is a link with some helpful tips:
http://www.ipm.iasta...-1994/bnut.html

April
One cantaloupe is ripe and lush/Another's green, another's mush/I'd buy a lot more cantaloupe/ If I possessed a fluoroscope. Ogden Nash

#28 budrichard

budrichard
  • participating member
  • 1,710 posts

Posted 25 November 2005 - 08:53 AM

We also have a tree and I processed them once. Must use gloves to avoid stain. One of the easier methods and the one I used is to put the unshelled nuts on your driveway and run over them with the wheels of your vehicle. Then take out the nut kernal and let dry. We let them dry in the garage and the scent was so intoxicating to the squirrels that they came right in the garage. I eventually put them out one by one for the squirrels to enjoy. -Dick

#29 srhcb

srhcb
  • legacy participant
  • 2,918 posts
  • Location:Northern Minnesota

Posted 25 November 2005 - 09:29 AM

I don't care for the stronger taste either, especially at a higher price than other walnuts, but I know the tree is probably worth a small fortune as lumber.

Black walnut is prized not only for furniture, but for custom made gun stocks.

SB :smile:

#30 BarbaraY

BarbaraY
  • participating member
  • 1,212 posts
  • Location:Central Sierra Foothills, CA

Posted 25 November 2005 - 11:51 AM

I was going to suggest the driving over them method, too. I've never tried it myself. The brick and hammer are my usual choice of weapons. I don't like cracking them but I like them well enough to do a small amount.
There is a cracking device that can be purchased. As I recall it was about $70 so unless you're planning to stay in the house for a long time probably not worth it.