When you purchase walnuts at the grocery store, you likely have bought English walnuts. Commercial growers avoid raising the native species, black walnuts, because they have tougher shells, less meat and are more difficult to grow. If you have an English walnut tree in your yard, make the most of it by harvesting the nuts and drying them for use in your kitchen. You do not need to buy them from the store any longer. Properly dried English walnuts will resist mold and rancidity.
Things You'll Need
Plastic netting or screen
Shake the tree branches to loosen the walnuts. Watch for falling nuts as they come to the ground.
Put gloves on to prevent the hulls from staining. Step on the walnuts before picking them up to loosen their hulls. Use a pocket knife to pull the hulls off of English walnuts if you prefer to not step on the nuts. Rinse off the nuts to remove any remaining bits of hull.
Lay the walnuts on a tarp in your backyard in a single layer and cover with plastic netting or a screen. Screening the nuts keeps the wildlife from pilfering your harvest. Avoid placing them in direct sunlight. Cover with a second tarp in rainy conditions. Leave the walnuts in place for three to four days or until the kernels inside become brittle. Open one or two walnuts with a nutcracker after three days to check for adequate drying. Once dry, place the English walnuts into an airtight container.
Without space in your yard for drying the walnuts, fill the legs of women's pantyhose with English walnuts and hang from a beam in a cool, dry place for several months. Open a walnut every week to look for an easily breakable, crisp nutmeat inside. Remove the walnuts from the hose when you see this and place in storage containers.
Store the dried walnuts in their shells for up to one year at 32 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit, or in the freezer for up to two years. Keep in an airtight container to prevent the walnuts from picking up odors from other foods in the storage area.