Saturday, September 15, 2012

Harvest Black Walnuts: Importance of Curing

Thwack!  Pow!  Crash!

My trusty rock hammer came down
                                                              and again.

Each shell was as solid as a rock. I was on a mission, however, to remove the treasures within them.

The branches that have fallen, the nuts that had come down directly on top of my head while I stood beneath the canopies of leaves, they were all worth it in the end.

I've finally found something regarding my black walnut trees to be truly happy about!

Two weeks ago, I discovered that eating a black walnut immediately after it falls from the tree is a very yucky, very bad idea -
It kinda tasted like soap.

I went off, therefore, to do a bit of online research, and found a great youtube video that explained what I did wrong.

As it turns out, you have to cure the walnuts for two weeks.

I washed them first, in order to remove the husks from the shells and aid in the process.

black walnut bath

I'm not going to say what I think that looks like...  I'm sure the thought is already in your head, anyway, after all.  Pretty nasty is an understatement.

I rubbed the black walnuts together inside the water, allowing the course shells to do the work of removing pieces of their husks for me.  After about 3 water changes, the shells were cleaned enough for me to be satisfied.

Ok, in reality, it probably would have been fine after only two water changes, but the water's resemblance to sewage just really...

grossed me out.

It sure is a good thing that the exuded scent resembles soap (similar to Irish Spring, in fact), because if the scent was bad, I probably would have given up altogether.

Once everything was cleaned up enough, I got out one of my handy-dandy, netted popsicle bags (Another great way to reuse them!), and loaded it up with the wet walnuts.

curing black walnuts in a netted bag

I hung them from a hook at the corner of my garage, and waited a full two weeks for them to cure.  Curing is important because if a walnut isn't properly dried, mold can grow, and nobody wants that!

As a walnut dries, the outside shell becomes darker and darker, until it is black.  It is indeed a black walnut, as the name implies.

It has been two weeks since I went through this process, and as of yesterday I've begun the long process of removing the inner fruit of the nuts.  I'm not actually sure why the process of curing the nuts is integral to getting a good tasting black walnut, but I tried one last night, and there is a definite difference in the overall taste.  If you know the answer to why, please leave a comment and educate me!

So far, I've found nothing.

Tomorrow I'll be telling you about the process of shelling the black walnuts, as well as discoveries I made during the process, since today's piece has grown too long to include it.

Stay tuned!


  1. From my experience, it is important to let them cure so the nuts become harder and shrink as they dry. By doing that the nut is able to separate from the inner shell, making it easier to remove.

    I processed black walnuts for the first time last year, and I thought it was a neat project. I let mine cure for about two months.

    I have been using the winter months to spot black walnuts and their beak-like buds in preparation for next fall.

    Hopefully you enjoyed your experiment!

  2. I did enjoy it, Kelly, and yes! I noticed that they shrank a great deal during the curing process, which just added to my fascination.