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Black Walnuts From Tree

Not sure if this board is appropriate but I have a query. My friend has multiple black walnut trees loaded with nuts and is throwing bushels of them away---she thinks they are trash. Yikes. No other nut has such a flavor for baking but as her trees are never sprayed I wonder if they would be wormy. I remember my Grandma's black walnut tree which I doubt was ever sprayed and the nuts were fine. Does anyone happen to know the probability that unsprayed black walnuts would be OK vs wormy? Because if these nuts are good I am going out there (it's some distance) with a very large basket and spend the winter picking nuts out of their shelves, a brutal job but worth the effort.

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  1. We planted one black walnut. It grew very fast and then produced so many nuts that limbs would actually fall down. I don't recall any worms. However black walnuts are very labor intensive and require shucking (those thick coverings that stain your hands) and then slow and careful picking of the nut meats out of the shell inside. If you have the patience (or the kids). it might be worth your while to harvest and shell some.

    Btw, we cut the tree down probably ten years ago, but, I guess on account of the squrrels, have them coming up all over our property still.

    1. won't know they're wormy till you break a few open. From my own trees, I've found they get wormy from laying on the ground. Wear gloves, or you'll have browny-purply hands for a week or 2

      1 Reply
      1. re: BiscuitBoy

        The husk on the outside may get worms in it, but that part is removed anyway. It doesn't affect the nut inside the shell. June is right in that cracking and picking are a commitment.

      2. Your friend has no idea of the absolute gold she's throwing away!!!! Hulled black walnut in the stores are commanding unbelievably freak-like expensive prices. Good grief! Throwing them away???!!!???. Tell your friend you'll take all of them!!! And then laugh at her ignorance.

        17 Replies
        1. re: Breezychow

          Just wondering Breezychow have you ever personally taken black walnuts straight from the tree and harvested the nut meats out?

          1. re: Quine

            I bought a bunch at the farmers market last weekend and can't get them open for the life of me. What tools should I be using?

            1. re: rose water

              I had a Black Walnut tree, and a local old timer showed me his way of getting the outer shell off. He made a trough out of 2x4 for sides and a 2x6 for the bottom put a good amount of the nuts in it and centered it in front of his car tire. Then he drove over the nuts in the trough a few times, (back and forth) and the nuts were out of the outer shell/husk. Still you have to wear gloves for the hand dying problem!

              1. re: ospreycove

                Great answer ospreycove. Rose water I was going to say run them over with your car, really. The idea that osprey gave is a much better solution.

                Now perhaps folks can understand why they are so bloody expensive to buy, in ready to use condition.

                1. re: ospreycove

                  I've heard of this method, too--maybe even for a different nut (hazelnuts, perhaps?). In any case, it did stick with me and I'd give it a roll as some nuts really are a PITA to crack. Might be helpful for dealing with a "useless spouse," too. KIDDING! ;P

                  1. re: ospreycove

                    Saw in Hawaii a macadamia nut opener. Looked like a teeny log splitter, Worked great, would work for Black Walnuts as well, or so he told me.

                  2. re: rose water

                    I believe one method is to put them in your driveway and repeatedly drive over them with the car! Honest--I have heard of this. The trough method is probably better.

                    1. re: sueatmo

                      As for the staining, if you do the last peeling under running water the stain can't really "stick" to your hands. At least that is how I managed to clean off my walnuts with no stain on my hands (bear in mind though, that I was peeling the related Hind's Walnut (Juglans hindsii, native to northern California) which doesn't have all the furrows on the shell that the regular one does. So the water may not do as good a job with those.

                    2. re: rose water

                      I'm in NYC. A car is a kitchen tool I just don't have! I fear that I will eventually give up and dump them all in the compost.

                      1. re: rose water

                        yes I can see that as an issue. Otherwise a hammer and a cloth sack (cloth will withstand more beatings) and a good amount of frustration and/or anger to work off would be my next suggestion of attack.

                        1. re: Quine

                          I actually keep a special hammer for things like this (it's also handy if you get macadamias that still have thier shells on) It's a truly ancient thing I inherited from my grandpa and is basically a hand held sledgehammer or maul with a head of solid cast Iron (there's a "3" on the head so I think of it as my "No.3 whacking hammer") You may want to find something comporable; in my opinion a lot of modern hammers just don't have the weight to generate enough froce to crack a black walnut.)

                          1. re: jumpingmonk

                            Aren't inherited tools great? I have a wooden spoon from my Great GrandMother. It will survive anything.

                            Yes, one does need a whacking hammer (Like Thor's?) for this project. But we offer what we can as suggestions.

                            1. re: Quine

                              Yes, you are right the thing does bear a suprising resemblence to Mjlolnir. Actually the thing's in the shop at the moment, I finally wore out the handle so it was getting loose, so I'm getting a new one fitted (when your hammer has a head that weighs 15lbs you do NOT want to risk it flying off while you swing).

                          2. re: Quine

                            The 10-12 year old boys in my family were relegated to using the hammer.

                            It was a chore of pleasure, as we all used the black walnuts in chocolate fudge every Saturday night until they were all gone.

                        2. re: rose water

                          A website called Hammon's sells shelled black walnuts from a farmers' nut cooperative (that is my source of black walnuts for baking) and I see in their catalog and on their website that they sell a special nutcracker for black walnuts. It is expensive but if you have a productive tree it might be worth having. Meanwhile I think my earliest memory is of my great-grandmother sitting on the cellar stairs cracking black walnuts between a hammer and an old flatiron. The shells are so hard that they are used (ground up) for industrial sandblasting.

                          1. re: Querencia

                            Costco sells Hammon's black walnuts this time of year. I buy quite a few bags, freeze them and eat them all year.

                            Even though I have a number of black walnut trees in my yard, I leave the nuts to the squirrels. However, they love to jump into the garden beds and bury them.

                    3. We forage for black walnuts this time of year, I have found that the worms disappear once the green husks fall away. We dry the walnuts out in our garage, a clean brick works really well as long as you have a hard surface (concrete) underneath. I use just enough force to crack the walnut maybe 1-2 times without smashing the walnut meat. I then use a toothpick to get into the chambers, this is time consuming so I do a few walnuts at a time until I have enough for my holiday baking. I must admit I enjoy pricing the walnuts at various stores and farmers markets, knowing I got my free, curtesy of Mother Nature!

                      1. Yes it was a bumper crop for black walnuts this year. I made liquor from the immature nuts, never tried to open mature ones. Don't throw them out just yet. Will do some research.

                        The husks can be made into wood stain and dye for wool. FYI

                        1. Surprised and happy to see so many other black walnut lovers so I am posting my great-grandmother's cookie recipe. My memory of her making them goes back almost 80 years. Melt 1 stick (4 oz) butter. Mix with 1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, 1 large egg, and 1 tsp vanilla. Add 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt. Work in 1 cup black walnuts. Form dough into two rolls, wrap, and refrigerate. Slice thin and bake. Try them with a cup of coffee.

                          1. Time to go collecting before the squirrels get them all. My intrigue goes beyond the nut. The wood is gorgeous stuff. It is one of the easiest trees to grow. They get huge and live a long time. Time for cookies.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: CCSPRINGS

                              I agree - the wood is one of the most beautiful there is. I recall Drexel furniture I had in the 50's - solid. Try to get that nowadays!

                            2. Have several very large BW trees in the back yard - one over 90' tall. I wash the nuts in two barrels of water, with latex gloves to avoid the stains and with a stiff bristle brush. Let them dry (or freeze them), then use a screw type nut cracker (with a towel over it) to slowly crack the shell. STILL a lot of work - and there is less meat than regular walnuts, but the flavor compared to standard walnuts is like truffles versus white mushrooms.