Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nickels from the Sky (Black Walnut Harvesting)

Black walnuts are used in a variety of baked goods from cookies, bread, cakes, etc. and the nutmeats are often expensive (like $3.29 for 6oz bag in grocery store) so finding some or a tree or several trees can be a real find for some.

For those who don't know what black walnuts look like - they're about 2 to 3 inches round and green, and actually look kind of like a tennis ball. If you don't have a tree near you then most of the time you will see black walnuts laying in streets, or on trails, etc. while you're out walking or riding.

To harvest you can either climb the tree, knock them from the branches with a pole/stick or wait until they fall to the ground (much easier) but make sure you only gather the ones that are solid green to a light yellowish green. If they're black forget about them, they're rotten already... MAKE SURE YOU WEAR GOOD PAIR OF GLOVES BECAUSE THEY CAN STAIN YOUR HANDS! Press on the skin of the walnut with your thumb; ripe nuts will show an indentation, most of the walnuts I have gathered that were on the ground are ripe already and ready to be de-hulled.

So now that you have your ripe walnuts you have to prepare them for proper curing and storage, which will require the removing of the green colored hulls. I have always just threw them down on a tarp and placed another tarp over them and just ran over them with my truck until all broken open. Of course they are other ways such as grinders, hammers, stirring them up in a mixture of water and gravel or some have even used them ol' fashined corn shellers.

Once hulled, the unshelled nuts need to be washed and while at the same time checked for goodness/insects. Place the unshelled nuts in a tub/bucket of water, the good nuts will sink to the bottom. The floating nuts you can discard. Wash the good nuts to remove the hull waste from them, might have to use a stiff brush on some. After washing spread the cleaned nuts out to dry so that they are not touching. If you are doing this outdoors, you need to be sure they are in a sunny spot, protected from them darn squirrels and chipmunks...


Now once all of that is done it's time for curing which takes about 4 to 6 weeks. I have always use onion bags but any simular type bag will do also as long as it permits air movement around the nuts. Fill the bag about half way and hang from a bar of sorts so as not to let the darn S & Cs get them...

After curing, store unshelled nuts in a well-ventilated area at 60°F or less. Cloth bags or wire baskets allow adequate air circulation and discourage development of mold, or you can begin to crack them open to eat or sell.

Before cracking, inspect the shells to make sure that there are no fissures or cracks in the shell. Walnuts with cracked shells are often infected with microorganisms and should be discarded. Bright yellow, blue streaked, or black kernels should not be consumed.To be certain nuts have cured adequately, break open a sample nut. When the nut is dry enough to store, its kernel will break crisply, with a sharp snap. If cured improperly, nuts will mold.

To crack them open some have soak the nuts in water for a day to soften them, I have always just cracked them with a hammer or get yourself one of them fancy nut cracker things >> Hardshell Nutcracker

After cracking the nutmeat can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator ( nutmeats will last about 9 months) or they can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 years. Or if selling them I usually fill a plastic sandwich bag up about half way ( equals right around a cup) and label them and sell them at flea markets, in front of your house, craigslist, etc. for about $2 to 3 dollars each baggy...

If you don't want to go to all that trouble you can still make a few bucks if you live close by a Hammons hulling outlet, last time I check a few years ago the price their were buying the green balls for was $13.00 for a 100 pounds.

Follow these links:

Click on Growing, Harvesting, & Hulling

Click on Hulling Locations

Enter your zip code and select the miles acceptable from the drop down list.

So there you have it good people, with a little work and time you can have freash black walnuts and maybe some pocket change to boot...

For Black Walnuts Recipes click here - Get Recipes

For thiose who want to grow their own Black walnut trees click here - Get Tree

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