Foraging is a fun and rewarding way to spend an afternoon. After a little hard work you have something edible and usable that you found and harvested yourself! I have been doing a lot of foraging lately and its amazing how much food is growing right outside the front door. A lot of these foods are not commonly used, so the trick is learning how to process them and use them. Foraging is not only fun, but it can be a valuable survival skill or off grid to learn.
Black walnut trees are native to the midwest and are THE american walnut tree. The walnuts in the holiday mixes we eat are the thinner shelled English walnuts. Black walnuts were used as a great source of protein by the native people of this country.
Black walnuts are considered a delicacy and are often used in high end restaurants in dishes with a hefty price. They sell for around 15-20 dollars a pound raw, but I'm going to teach you how to harvest your own!
Step 1: What You'll Need...
A sturdy stir stick
Step 2: Gather Your Walnuts
Black walnuts have a characteristic green, tennis ball looking, outer husk that covers the nut. This husk contains a chemical called Juglone that stinks. It also has the ability to prevent things from growing near the black walnut tree. It acts as natural weed control. The liquid in the green hull is sometimes used as a dye and will stain EVERYTHING! Wear protective gear and old clothing.
Black walnuts grow in urban backyards and in the wild. They are easiest to find by the flurry of squirrel activity in the area. The trees are fairly large and have black bark. They produce a crop of walnuts about every other year. Take advantage when they do!
Step 3: Remove the Green Husk
Many people make this step harder than it has to be, but the easiest way I have found is to simply don an old pair of shoes and step on the nut. With a twist of your foot, the husk will come right off. Do this with your whole harvest and put them in the bucket. Each nut takes about five seconds to de-hull.
Step 4: Clean Them Up!
Fill the bucket with just enough water to cover the walnuts. Then stir like crazy! The stirring will loosen up and rub off all of the remaining yellow parts from the outer husk. Dump the water, and do it again. It will take at least 5 rinses to get them clean. The more nuts you have the more you may need to stir, drain and repeat. This quantity shown was done after 5 drainings.
After the nuts are clean of all debris, rinse them off with a hose.
The squirrels will be watching...
Step 5: Set the Nuts Out to Dry
Put the nuts on a paper bag, or something that will let air through, and set them in a dry placewith good air flow. I set them above my floor vent so they would dry quicker! Drying will take a couple weeks. Break one open after about two weeks to see how they have progressed.
Step 6: Crack Em Open!
When the nuts are dry, its time to get the nut meats out of the shell. Black walnut shells are incredibly hard, and a standard nut cracker will not work. A splitting maul does the trick a little better. I set up pieces of wood to catch the pieces of shell from scattering everywhere when they break. It doesn't take a hard hit, just tap the hammer on the nut until it cracks open.
Black walnuts have an intricate interior and there are several compartments where the nuts will be. Each nut may require another tap with the maul to free the nut meats.
If you won't be using them right away, your black walnut meats can be preserved in the freezer. I have heard they can stay good for up to two years in the freezer.
If you have never tasted these nuts, the flavor is very rich, and almost sweetly smoky. It is a very unique taste and may require some getting used to. It has a very wild flavor!
Here is a link to some awesome recipes!
Here an instructable on how to make a black walnut pie! Yum!