The butternut is a tree in the walnut family that produces green, ovoid fruits containing rough, brown nuts that look similar to peach pits. Butternuts are highly nutritious and a favorite food of birds, squirrels and other small rodents. People use the nut oil for everything from cooking to furniture polish. Butternuts produce a very dark oil that adds its color to anything cooked in it and darkens wood to a deep, lacquered sheen. People can also eat butternuts for their nutritional value. They taste similar to walnuts and can be used in place of walnuts in pies, pastries and other dishes. The best way to store butternuts for most uses is to dry them.
Things You'll Need
- Parchment paper
- Wire racks
Fill a bucket with lukewarm water and toss in as many butternuts as you can. Stir the water roughly with a stick to remove any dirt and debris on the husks. When the water stops moving, wait a few minutes for the nuts to sink or float. Harvest the nuts that float and dry them with a towel. Discard the nuts that sink.
Set out some wire racks in a cool, dry, undisturbed place. An outdoor kitchen, canning room or clean corner of the basement are all good options. Tear off squares of parchment paper and lay them evenly over the wire racks.
Spread out your butternuts in a single layer on the parchment paper. Set them all at least a half inch apart to prevent rot where the husks may touch. You may husk the nuts if desired, but you don’t have to. When the butternuts are completely dry, the husks will crumble.
Allow the butternuts to dry for about four weeks, checking on them each week. The husks should begin to darken and wrinkle but not grow mushy or slimy. They should feel loose and slightly spongy at first, then dry and brittle. When the husks are brittle, crumble them off with your fingers and store the butternuts in the refrigerator.