Earth Matters by Jacqueline Milner – Black Walnuts Part One – What you need to know – November 3, 2011

CFN -One of the things that my husband and I did when we moved into our present home some 12 years ago was plant a variety of plants and trees.
We planted 3 black walnuts trees not only for their shade and cooling properties during the summer months, also for the trees consumption of co2, its oxygen production and most importantly for the trees production of fruit (nuts) for animal and human consumption.Not all of these trees are producing much fruit as of yet however the largest of the three trees has yielded about 4 bushels of nuts which I have just collected from the ground this week.
Two years ago I attempted to shell and dry the nuts and ended up with a mouldy mess so last year I simply collected the nuts and spread them about in various forested areas in the hopes that some of them would self seed and others would serve as welcome foraged food for some of our local wildlife such as the red squirrels and skunks.

With the abundant harvest this year I will once again attempt to shell, dry and properly store this nut.  In my research this time around I have come to the understanding that it is suggested that the nuts be collected as they drop to the ground, this is usually when the nut’s outer casing turns from green to yellowish-green.  (see image of collected nuts above before hulling)   The outer casing indicates its readiness to be removed from the nut when pressure from the finger indicates softness, somewhat like testing the readiness of an avocado.
It is recommended that heavy duty rubber gloves be used in removing the hulls from the nuts as the juice will stain the flesh on contact.  Expect to have black-brownish fingers and hands for weeks should this occur. Definitely not a job for children as information indicates avoiding contact of the juice with mouth and eyes.  Apparently ink and wood stain can be made from the hulls.  This information alone stands as a testament to the stain ability and dye ability of the hulls.  It is then suggested that these nuts be hung to dry/cure in an environment such as a wired basket or loosely constructed onion bag to allow moisture to escape from the nuts for one to two months.  Shelling and storage of the flesh would follow.

I was told that a very dry growing season could adversely affect the size of the nut and the edible flesh content.  Because of our very dry summer, I opened up a couple of uncured nuts (see photo above which shows peeled hull, whole nut & cracked nut) to insure there was flesh worthy of the work which lies ahead in this nut harvest.  I was also made aware that if the nuts were left too long before husking, the bitterness of the husk would invade the nut flesh.  So I cracked one of the hulled, uncured nuts for a taste.  I did not taste any bitterness so my days ahead will be filled with time for reflection, planning and meditation as I hull the bushels of nuts harvested for the curing process.Rather than hulling by hand, some spread the nuts on the ground then run over them with their car.  This mish mash of nuts and hulls is then collected in a wired basket, then plunged in a container of water, large enough to completely cover the basket.  The broken off hull parts will float to the surface while the nuts remain in the bottom of the wire basket.  Skim off the husks to the garbage or a pile of natural materials that will be left to decompose.  It is very important that these hulls nor any part of this tree are not put in your compost pile.  The black walnut tree and its fruit contain “juglone”.  This is a compound that inhibits certain plants’ growth; tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant to name a few.  Some research will be required to find out which plants are “juglone” tolerant.  Also be aware that the by-products of this tree, shavings for example can be harmful to some animals.  I recall reading shavings from the black walnut tree are harmful for horses.This is going to be quite the experiment.  I will report back next week on where this experiment takes me.

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