To be honest, I let them sit around for so long because what little I could find on the internet about harvesting them seemed rather messy, laborious and time consuming. Being determined to eat some of OUR walnuts this winter, set me to task (that and watching squirrels run off with fallen nuts..."Damn you, furry minions of hell!")
After mowing our lawn I started to pick up as many nuts as I could, the boys soon joined in and we had an old five gallon bucket filled over half way up. I had read on another site that the fleshy green meat that is surrounding the nut tends to stain anything it comes in contact with and to don old clothes and such. Plus the site recommend having a wire brush, and that 25 nuts per hour was to be expected. Alas, I ended up doing it "my way" as Frankie S. used to croon. I think they look pretty darn good too!
We started by splaying them out on the driveway (gravel). Next we crushed them with our heels. A little step and twist seemed to do the trick (although my eldest son liked the jump and attack tactic). We were left with a myriad of empty green husks and different shades of walnuts. [ I should mention that some of the squirrels had tried to eat through a husk or two, and these sometimes appeared to be rotten. We still wanted to see what they looked like when opened though...they are BLACK walnuts after all, maybe it was nothing.] We discarded the really black looking nuts and collected the partially black and all remaining nuts into the five gallon bucket for stage #2.
Cara had recently removed the last of our drying onions from a screen that she had found laying around. So I had the boys grab that, and we dumped our walnuts (with a healthy amount of meat clinging to their nuts...insert joke here...) and rubbed them into the gravel with our hands and feet. [It was about this point that I noticed the "brown stain" really taking hold on my fingers. I had neglected to use gloves when picking up the nuts from the husk...it showed. So the boys went into the barn and got some latex gloves for themselves and I got a pair of leather ones for me.] We didn't apply too much pressure for fear that we might break them, but enough to scrub some meat off. Then we collected the nuts and began to rub them on the screen, not individually, but maybe 5-8 at a a time. We did this for maybe 20 seconds for each batch and then dropped them into the bucket yet again.
Don't forget that I am winging it here. I don't exactly how to get from point A (the green fleshy husked nut) to point B (the tasty little morsel of food) except through a more labor intensive route that I was unwilling to take. I decided that we should try to remove the remaining meat off the nut through friction, and wash off some of the gravel/dust in the process. I had the boys load clean looking gravel into the bucket, added some water and agitated the whole lot by twisting the handle back and forth while suspending the bucket a few inches off the ground. I emptied the brackish water and repeated the process two more times.
I must say, they turned out to be pretty clean! So, we laid them out on a table to dry overnight and then collected them into a plastic bowl to store in our basement (a cool dry place is what I had read) for 6-8 weeks. So that is where we are now. I hope to try them out in mid-November sometime, and when I do...I will be sure to keep you posted. Until then...enjoy the fall...
Checking back in: our first batch has been sitting for 2 weeks, and should be ready to eat within the month. Brandon felt the ladies of the house needed to experience the Black Walnut harvest, so he set us to task on a beautiful fall Sunday afternoon!
After several hours, and my 8 year old needing several pep talks to finish the task, here is a solid pointer!
Wear latex gloves under work/garden gloves:
Here is hoping the end is worth the effort!
Update 7 October 2011:
I have been looking at a few videos on YouTube and have seen some interesting ones regarding black walnuts. One guy up in Canada uses a hammer, concrete and wire snips to get to the walnut meat inside, saying that the black walnut "nut" is so thick it will break a normal nut cracker. He also started to mention the chemical that is found in the husk, leaves and especially the ROOTS of the tree: JUGLONE. Wanting to know more I found a site that explains how juglone can affect a garden, or plants near it. How one should not use the husk as compost, or any other part of the tree. I found it all to be very illuminating and thought that I would share. Happy Harvesting!!! Here is the link: