Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Harvesting Walnuts

This post is being published 2 months after I typed everything up.  I am a bit embarrassed to publish something that went totally wrong, but hey, someone will learn from my mistakes, and others may have years of experience harvesting walnuts and could post some advice in the comments section!  So here goes the hesitant post:

I have absolutely no idea how to harvest walnuts.  Every online source I find leads me in a different direction, and the people I talk to all have varying opinions on this matter.  So here goes a mish mash of tiral and error when trying to harvest walnuts this fall.  Both trials ended with no success.  If you have a sure-way of harvesting walnuts, please let me know.  I'd like to try again next year!

*All references say to collect the nuts after the tree drops them; meaning, don't pick them directly from the tree.  Living in an urban setting means squirrels, which means very few walnuts on the ground for humans.  My selection was very limited.

*One thing is for certain, walnuts have a very strong dye that discolors everything, so make sure you're wearing gloves, old clothes, and cracking them in a location that can stay permanently discolored for a long time. 

*Dispose walnut hulls in the trash or away from your garden.  Walnuts contain a toxin that can damage the soil and future plant growth.


This next section is the part I'm uncertain about.  Some people wait until the shell is black and falls away from the nut.  I read that brown shells indicate decomposing which creates heat and cooks the nut.  Further in the reading it said to remove the green or mostly green shells.  So...I decided to go with the advice of removing the green shell.  There are many ways to remove the green shell.  A walnut huller is ideal or a cement mixer with a combination of nuts, water and gravel.  I don't have either so I tried shelling them using a hammer to crack the shell and then using my fingers to pry off the remaining shell.  This was a lot of work, and in the process, I ripped a tiny hole in the glove which leaked that dye into my glove discoloring my hand and thumb nail for weeks!  I also tried the hammer method followed by a grout mixer on the end of a drill agitating the nuts in a bucket full of water.  This method was a lot faster and it saved my gloves from holes.  If I discover it's worth harvesting walnuts, I will designate an old pair of work gloves for this task instead of using these disposable ones. 

(Using a hammer, I broke open the green shell.  I did this on a tuft of grass on top of cement to soften the blow of the hammer on the concrete.)

(After the green shell is removed.)

(A drill with a grout mixture attachment)

(Removing skins with the help of the grout mixer and some water.)

After removing as much of the green shell as I could, I rinsed the nuts with water in a bucket, swirling the nuts around until the water was almost clear.  



Then I put the nuts in an old onion sack and hung them under the eaves by our back door to dry.  They are to dry in a warm location (out of the sun) for about 2 weeks (some say 3 or 4 days) or until the shell easily breaks.  Nuts will spoil if the temperature exceeds 105 degrees. 


The results: 

(I decided to crack the first batch of nuts after 1 week and they were all shriveled up but still rubbery.)

(Some of the nuts actually looked burnt.)

(These were some of the good-looking nuts that were still a little rubbery and needed to harden.)

(Here's the inside of the shell---you can see the four chambers really well.  Kinda cool!)

(The inside of a nut, still wet.)


(After a few days of drying the nuts on a towel, the nuts that actually looked pretty edible, dried up into raisin-like nuts.  So...we did not have any success with harvesting walnuts using the above methods.  We still had fun though and learned a lot!)

I didn't find any black nuts on the ground this fall because the squirrels got to them first; or perhaps I should collect the green nuts and let them blacken in a dark place before they are shulled?   I have no clue, but I'll try again next year!  If you have any advice, please post in the comments section!  : )



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A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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