Battle: Black Walnut

The battle has begun.

After being away for most of the summer in Colorado I missed most of the food preservation that I could do to prepare for the winter.  So in addition to trading time for a share of a wild prepared food CSA, I began to hunt for opportunities to enjoy nature and gather food.

My first find was Turkey Tail mushroom, followed by Shagbark Hickory nuts, but the best find was someone who offered their Black Walnuts up for grabs.

While I realize that we did each other a favor I cleaned up all the menacing nuts from the yard, and she provided me with a new experience that I will be eating and using as medicine this winter, I am completely grateful.

First I’ve had the opportunity to deal with it.  You know those projects.  The big hairy ugly ones that you end up avoiding so long that they become obsolete or impossible so that you can ignore them and move on?  Well this had the potential to become one of those.  In fact it almost has at least once.  I’m determined however to make this work.

First I went to pick up the nuts.  Orange sized with a yellow-green color (I thought they smelled lemon like) the nuts plus their husk and hull got scooped up into bags.   All in all 29 FULL 4 gallon bags.  I had to use smaller bags in order to be able to carry them.  I’m guessing that each bag was between 2 & 3 1/2 gallons so I picked up ~58 – 87 gallons of nuts.  All in all the first part of the battle left me tired, in a good way, having enjoyed the outdoors for the better part of 4 hours.

Bags of Black walnuts on the back stairs.
Can't leave 'em outside or the animals will eat 'em before I can. What better place?

The next part of the battle began in a counter attack when my husband went to move some of the bags (that I hadn’t yet touched, dealt with, or even figured out what to do with) and let me know that we now had worms in our car.   Gross (and if you can imagine also the point at which I thought about giving up.)  Fortunately he didn’t blink, unloaded the car and got it vacuumed out for me.  What a guy.  So that meant that I was going to have to deal with them that day, because I’m not bringing a pile of rotting walnuts with worms into the house.

Sitting down outside to remove the husks (hulls?) began the next phase of my plan. I happily stomped on the walnuts to loosen this chartreuse and black somewhat soft exterior, all the while using rubber gloves to keep my hands from getting stained.  I’m not quite sure what my neighbors think of me.  Perhaps this is more normal than brewing beer during a blizzard, perhaps not…  Anyway 3 hours later and there was no light left in the sky, my fingers were freezing (November can get cold quickly,) and there were still three bags of nuts to hull.  I was also done with my patience at this point.  So I stopped for the night.  My efforts had consolidated three bag with-hulls down to one without and now I have a mere 8 bags of nuts (eventually 9) to crack.

The hulls can’t just be composted either, something in Black Walnuts inhibits plant growth… not something you want if you are growing soil.  But perfect for keeping down the vegetation at the edges of the fencing around my yard (I hope.)

Don’t ask how they’re being cracked, I don’t know.  Also, I hear you can turn the shell into medicine, which I’d love to do but have no idea how.  Battle: Black Walnut is by no means complete however  After putting in nearly 8 hours I’m not giving up (yes I’m saying this to bolster courage.)

Stay tuned here for updates.

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