HARVESTING AND PREPARING BLACK WALNUT
Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) is a native tree here in Ontario, and where we live they are particularly abundant. While we love this tree a lot, there are a few issues that can arise in the fall when they start to drop their very pungent fruit: squirrels and juglone.
The black walnut nut is a common food source for squirrels around here, and when they start dropping all over our lawn, we are soon to find squirrels scurrying around EVERYWHERE. They can be quite destructive, so we try to remove the walnuts as quickly as possible.
Juglone is the allelopathic (growth inhibiting) compound that can be found in all parts of the black walnut tree, but especially in the nut hulls. This can be detrimental to surrounding gardens.
SO instead of just getting rid of the black walnuts when they fall, we can actually use them in very tasty ways!
Around late September/early October, you'll start to see the bright green hulls of the black walnut hitting the ground. This is the time to start collecting! Now comes the messy part...
Black walnut can stain. A lot. Be sure to wear gloves while working with them, otherwise you will have brownish/orange hands for weeks!
Once you have collected the fruits, you will need to remove the hull from the nut. The easiest way (and most fun) is to stomp on them.
Once the nut is separated from the hull, you will want to clean them as best as you can. I put mine in a bucket on water and scrubbed away the remaining flesh with steel wool.
Next, you will need to dry/cure your walnuts for 3-4 weeks. This prevents mold from getting to your harvest.
Once dried, they can be stored in the fridge or freezer to prevent them from going rancid.
Now is where the real fun starts! These are some of the hardest shells ever. You will not be able to use a traditional nut cracker on these guys. There are special devices that can be bought or crafted, but I found a simple and effective way was just smashing them with a hammer.
You'll want to be careful to wrap the walnut in an old dishtowel first, making sure that you have a hard (preferably outdoor) surface to use, and even some safety glasses. The shell has a seam that when struck properly does open well, but it make take a few tries to get the right technique.
Phew, thats it! Now you've got tasty walnut that have taken you over a month to prepare...
Maybe not the most efficient wild food, but I find that the taste is worth the trouble. They can be consumed raw, or roasted with spices for an extra kick!