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fresco

Black Walnuts Straight from the Tree

38 posts in this topic

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"

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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

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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?

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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"

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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.

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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"

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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

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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"

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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.

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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

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"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"

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

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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"

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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

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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

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Think we have the beginnings here of a "vastly overrated food that is not worth the trouble" thread.


Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"

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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

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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:

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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 (log)

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