The problematic nature of the black walnut or Juglans nigra comes not from its bountiful supply, but from its inability to let go of that nut easily.
The hard-shelled nut is a difficult one to crack, which is probably why the nuts are so plentiful for the intrepid forager willing to tackle the task of processing.
A couple of years ago I collected only a couple of pounds of walnut from a tree I found in Lowell. After reading about the difficulty of processing, I set about hulling the nuts from the shell, and as time-consuming as that was, it did not compare to the chore of getting the actual nut from the shell.
And to boot, there isn’t much meat to get. It’s very small in comparison to the English walnut, but…and this is a very big BUT. The meat is worth the effort.
This is one of the sweetest nutmeats you will taste. If you know your nuts, then you know the black walnut is superior in taste to the walnuts you’ll buy in the store. The bitterness you find in the store packaged variety is absent.
Not a lot of people try processing the black walnut, but this year we’re doing it again and attempting to get at least a full pound of nut meat. That’s a lot of meat.
The difficulty in obtaining the meat is not from breaking the shell, (though I have heard that some people have went so far as to lay nuts out on the driveway and run over them to break through the barrier.) but from digging the meat from the many chambers inside the shell.
Be sure to wear gloves during the process or your hands will stain. The stain lasts a good while. Though I wore gloves, some stain still managed to come through and lasted about two weeks.
The process of getting from harvesting to nut meat is not a short one. The steps in order:
1. Cut hulls from the shell. Use a knife to slice all the way around the shell as deeply as possible. Twist to remove one side, then cut the other side away.
2. Run cold water over hulled nuts and scrape or brush the remaining hull from the shell. Let the shells dry before the next step.
3. crack the nuts; either with hammer or car tire doesn’t matter as long as you can get to the meat.
4. Use a small utensil; a knife, or nutpick… something that will fit into the small chambers inside the walnut. If you have more than five pounds of hulled nuts you will be digging for a very long time.
The whole process for two pounds of hulled nuts took approximately three hours.
Though the black walnut meat really is one of the best I’ve tasted, the process is time consuming and frustrating. If you have family members or friends who will help, it will make the time go much faster, you’ll get done quicker and probably have more fun.
The nut meat can be eaten raw, used in baking or any way that you would use other nuts.