Friday, August 31, 2012

How NOT to Gather and Eat Black Walnuts

Smack! Bam!

Thwack! Thunk!

Crash!

Nope.  I'm not quoting a comic book.  Rather, These are the sounds I've been hearing outside every day and night for a little over a week.

The black walnut trees are dropping walnuts at a rather fast rate.  I'm seriously considering donning a helmet every time I go out into my backyard.

Naturally, I wanted to crack one of these walnuts open and have a taste.

First, I had to remove the outer husk.  These husks tend to be green, brown, or green and brown.

black walnuts still in their green and brown husks
A pile of un-husked black walnuts
Generally, the idea is to use walnuts that don't have a pre-cracked outer husk.  This, unfortunately, is nearly impossible in my yard, because the black walnut trees are huge.

As in at-least-one-floor-taller-than-a-2-story-house-with-attic huge.

Yeah, they don't fall without cracking.

And that's when you want to gather them: after they fall.  If you pick them, you may end up harvesting them too soon.

So I grabbed one, went to my table on the porch, and tore off the husk.

It was quite messy. 

They dyed my fingers, fingernails, and part of my palms brown and black.  I thought to myself, 

"Wow!  If I can manage to get it just right, 
I'll be able to use it as a replacement for henna... 
albeit, a different hue." 

I just may try that, later.

In the meantime, though, I had a black walnut to crack and eat.

I tried one of those crab leg cracking tools, a nutcracker, some pliers...

But in the end, I grabbed my trusty rock hammer that I used faithfully throughout my college days.

That finally did it.

Yep.  Those black walnut shells are as hard as rocks.

I then spent a few minutes trying to pry the meaty center out of the shell.  Again, not an easy task. I had to give it a few more whacks.
           Then a few more...

                                      And then some more. 



The result wasn't very pretty.  I ended up with a nice little pile of shell and nut.  I was determined, though.  I would eat black walnut!

I sifted through the rubble, pulled out a small piece of nut, and chewed.

...

       ...

            ...

         Eeeeeeeew!!!!

It was...  not pleasant.

Fortunately, after reading up on it a bit more, I discovered that this was because I made a mistake.  It turns out, after you remove the husk, you're supposed to let black walnuts cure.

What this basically means is that you need to place them on a screen or in some netting of some sort and let them happily dry for two weeks.

I think I may have been a wee bit short of that, but hey!  What's 14 days... right?

As you can imagine, I'm taking everything I've learned since that mistake, and applying this knowledge to my next batch of nuts.

I'll get back to you with that when the curing is complete.  In the meantime, learn from my impatience...

This is not how to gather and eat black walnuts!



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