If you have ever had a black walnut tree or gone to a park where black walnuts were growing, you have probably wondered how to harvest these nuts. Care must be taken when handling the green nuts after they fall from the tress as they are full of a substance that permanently stains everything it touches. If you have a little time and some storage space then you should be able to enjoy the wonderful and unique flavor of black walnuts. It is a heavenly addition to vanilla ice cream and makes banana bread taste like a gourmet treat.
Things You'll Need
Sharp paring knife
Trash box for hulls
Dry storage area
Collect a hundred or so black walnuts that have fallen from the tree. They can be collected from the branches of the tree but usually they are too high and pulling on the nuts can damage the branches. Some of the hulls may have already blackened, and that is fine as long as there are no squirrel bites going through the hull and into the nut.
Put on some heavy duty gloves and fill a 5-gallon bucket halfway up with water. Set aside a box for the discarded hulls and work over newspaper or a suitable covering to keep from getting your clothes stained.
Slice around the green to black soft hull in one motion just like you are slicing into an apple. Don't press too hard as the inner walnut shell is extremely hard and will only dull your knife. If you notice bugs in the husk, just ignore them as they seldom get into the nut.
Place both hands on the nut and twist in opposite motions. The husks should fall off pretty easily leaving little bits of husk stuck on the shell. If the husk is too hard for slicing, set it aside to soften up for a few days. Throw the husks into the trash box (not the compost as they are toxic to plants) and then place the husked nuts into the bucket of water. Continue until you have husked all the black walnuts.
Using a broom handle or some such device, stir the nuts in the water bucket vigorously to remove any extra bits of husk. Drain the nuts and inspect. If they still have too much husk on them, wash them again. Place on wooden or screened tray to dry and cure in the sun for a couple of hours or in a dry place for 24 hours..
Cure the nuts in a dry place like a onion mesh bag or a wooden box for about four to six weeks. This will greatly enhance the flavor of the walnut and also make the nutmeats a little easier to remove.
Crack the throroughly dry and cured nuts either in a black walnut cracker (a vice-like device), a hammer, or a regular woodshop vice. The shells are super hard and care must be taken not to just smash the shell. Smashing the shell leads to the nutmeats being smashed and also filled with glass-like bits of shell.
Black walnuts are much stronger in flavor than regular walnuts, so use them sparingly.