Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Walnuts

It's fall now and there's a little lull here with respect to fishing. Stream trout is over. Water is getting to be too cold for carp. Maybe one day in the coming weeks I'll look after some fall smallmouth. Not sure. So, a person turns to a little thinking and decides to share things like this following post. It may be useful for folks interested in hunting/gathering/gardening - a group that tends to intersect well the fishing population.

Our backyard is defined by a large black walnut tree - Juglans nigra. The tree poses a significant problem: it uses a natural herbicide to discourage growth of a range of plants beneath or near its crown. Some notable positives though: shade is provided for most of the day in summer; dead branches are dropped, providing kindling for bonfires; good habitat for birds and bugs; husks can be used to make dye; green branches can be made available for carving; many pounds of nuts are produced each year.

A person with a walnut tree could moan that it's messy and shady and tough on tomato plants. Staining blobs of nut husk on patio, clogging lawnmower blades and smelling funny. Always have to pick up sticks. Rake leaves. I figure though that when a person is presented with a food source in his own back yard he shouldn't complain about any related hassle or connive with some sawyer to sell his soul in the form of rough cut lumber. Rather he should work out by trial and error and research some means of making use of the protein. It would be foolish of me to go buy nuts at the store just after using my motor vehicle to collect up these offered nuts and take them to the city compost pile.

In fall of 2007 and 2008 we tinkered with the fruit of the tree a bit and ate a few. No real concerted effort was made until this year though.

I decided to let the nuts be as they were on the ground - I just herded them into a corner and allowed the wind and water (and even the fly larva) to eat away at the husks for me. This worked well - it allowed me to easily crumble away the husks in a bucket of water using no tool at all. Much preferred to the labor-intensive methods aimed at removing the husks while still green.


To avoid molding, the "residual husk" must be removed from the nut. When the husk comes off while green, this task is difficult. But it seemed to me that when the husks were degraded and disintegrated by the elements, it was pretty easy to clean them by simply agitating a mass of nuts in a five gallon bucket with some water. Just enough water to make a thick slurry to keep the nuts abrading against one another. That abrasion seemed to wear off the residual husk pretty well. I just used an old shovel handle and really got them whipping in that bucket.


I read that after cleaning, a person could set the nuts on a screen in a garage, or put them in a gas oven (only pilot light on) to dry the exterior. This step was my downfall last year - I stored them in a poorly ventilated container and they molded. So this fall I put them in my food dryer and turned it on over night. Next morning they were clean and dry, as far as I could tell.


They are now curing in burlap sacks and onion bags. It seems like popular opinion is that they should cure for ~0.5-2.0 months. I ate one the other day and it tasted pretty good. Next challenge is determing the best method for removing meat from shell. Winter task.

Some good looking nuts:

Wally the Walnut Tree:


If anyone out there has good experience and notes on black walnut harvest, do speak up.

10 Comments:

Blogger HZiols said...

Hi Justin. Talk to Mary Ellen fram in Northfield. her brother, who is no longer here on Earth, showed me and Luigi a screw-based black walnut cracker. You know Mary Ellen, don't you?? Also, I used to buy locely shelled black walnuts for my gourmans bro-in-law from one Roy Johnston, herewith also now passed. His method was the old one: car, hammer, nut pick. He always advised checking his product for tooth-breaking shells before using. A great old gardener, he. I also, myself, attempted black walnut harvest when I lived in "the Shack" in Nfd in one of my transitional seasons. Car, nuts, then mold. But I still have the jeans with the fabulous walnut stain spatters - indelible!!
Hope you and yours are all well!!
Hilary

4:33 PM  
Blogger HZiols said...

OOps - Mary Ellen Frame. Sorry..oh, dang... lovely shelled... what else??

4:35 PM  
Blogger Wendy Berrell said...

I would recognize MEF, though I don't really know her. Good info on walnuts.

Right now, ours are hanging in the garage with good air circulation - onion sacks, burlap. I think this winter they'll be pretty good for consumption.

Good to hear frm you HZ - hope to see you soon.

12:23 PM  
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