Wild Arkansas

November 19, 2011

Tis the Time for Nuts

Filed under: baking, foraging, nuts — Tags: , , , — WildArkansas @ 2:45 am

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.



September 29, 2010

Wild Wednesday at Murphy Park

Filed under: allium, dandelion, Edible plants, foraging, fruit, nuts, Pinus, taraxacum — Tags: , , , , , — WildArkansas @ 7:20 pm

Unfortunately, my camera broke so I don’t have photos of the edibles at the local park. Fortunately however, one of the groundskeepers aided our quest by pointing out several edibles we probably would not have known about.

At Murphy Park today:

Allium or Crow Garlic. It never gets above the ankle because of the weekly mowing so we’ll never get to see the flowers, but it still tastes and smells like onion. The groundskeeper said he would be quite happy if someone were to come along and dig it all up.

Plantagos- Both, the narrow and broad-leaf varieties.

Dandelion- ah the old standby.

Lepidium or pepper grass. It’s spread out in the grassy areas and around trees.

Black Walnut, crabapples, pine, oak, clover, wild strawberry (for some odd reason they are fruiting in shady spots) and yellow wood sorrel.

September 28, 2010

More nuts! Hickory

Filed under: fruit, nutrition, nuts — Tags: , , , — WildArkansas @ 3:51 pm

comparison of Carya nuts

Perhaps it’s just luck that we’re blessed with a bumper crop of nuts this year. Regardless, the bounty is something I intend to enjoy.

We’ve gathered a few hickory nuts and found that though breaking through the shell yields fragmented pieces, there is a secret to getting larger meats.

Mother Earth News has an article about getting to the meat of the problem. (Pun intended) and with that advice, the meats come out cleaner.

The most common of hickories you will find in Northwest Arkansas is the shagbark or Carya laciniosa. The tree yields the largest and probably the sweetest of nuts.

You can use hickory in recipies that call for walnuts or just eat them raw, roasted or candied.

September 27, 2010


Filed under: fruit, nutrition, nuts — Tags: , , — WildArkansas @ 10:57 pm

Nearly wiped out more than a century ago by the chestnut blight, it seems the American Chestnut (Castenea dentata) is alive and well in Northwest Arkansas.

The collection of nuts yesterday, yielded approximately five pounds from ten minutes of gathering a few from the ground around the trees.

The nuts we gathered were large, meaty and as beautiful as any you would find in specialty food catalogues.

These are the chestnuts you want to roast over an open fire and show off to family and friends.

If you do gather some of these nuts, use leather gloves or a tool of some sort to take the ripe nuts from the spiky hull. The spines can be quite sharp.

October 18, 2008

Wild Arkansas: The Ever Evasive Apios

Filed under: Apios americana, Edible plants, foraging, nuts — Tags: , , , — WildArkansas @ 2:39 pm

Photo courtesy of kgnaturephotography.com

I want to say our walk was fruitful, but that wouldn’t be exactly true. It was a bit nutty and very, very rooty.

We found sassafras, black walnuts (huge ones!) and hickory on our walk yesterday while looking for the well hidden Apios americana.

The Apios has also been dubbed the groundnut (along with other plants including the peanut), the Indian Potato, hopniss and the potato bean.

Sam Thayer likes the name Hopniss, because “Hopniss is short, pleasant, one of the better-known names, and has never been applied to any other plant.”

Apios is a legume like beans and peas, but also has an edible tuber that foragers have craved throughout history. Thayer had a romantic vision of Hopniss before he found it, but after his first encounter the relationship between him and the plant became life long. He’s experimented in preparing the tuber several different ways and his field experience with hopniss is pretty impressive.

The bean and the tuber both contain high amounts of protein with the tuber also consisting of large starch content. The tuber has about three times the amount of protein as a potato and in tests with the plant it appears the tuber is more easily digestible when cooked.

The bean is native to North America and was used for centuries as a staple in the diet of many native Americans. It was boiled, roasted, dried and powdered for flour. Though it was used as a food crop extensively by natives it never became a cash crop, most probably because it takes two years for the plant to mature and produce a large harvest.

Some people say the taste is a bit sweet and akin to sweet potatoes, but I wouldn’t know—still haven’t found one.

Though the Apios is supposed to be rampant in NW Arkansas and is considered an invasive weed by some, it has mysteriously avoided my detection and it’s not because I haven’t looked. According to the Plants for a Future database Autumn is the best time to harvest the Apios.

Despite my lack of the wild bean in hand, we came home happier and healthier, not only for the walk, but because we had a brand spanking new sassafras seedling to plant in the yard along with a few leaves for tea and some monster black walnuts with sweet meats.

But yes, I’m still keeping my eye out for the ever evasive Apios.

One of the monster walnuts.

Hopniss Article by Thayer

September 20, 2008

Arkansas is Full of Nuts!

Filed under: Edible plants, foraging, health, nutrition, nuts — Tags: , , , , — WildArkansas @ 9:01 pm

With autumn come the nuts, and Arkansas is full of ’em.

This morning I went on a short walk and found some hickory (Carya tomentosa) and Black Walnut (Juglans nigra).

I wanted to find out if processing needed to be done before munching and ran across Mother Earth’s Fall Guide to Nuts.

In case you’ve never read Mother Earth before, it’s one of the best sustainable living publications that I’ve run across and has been around for quite some time.

Most nuts you find you won’t have to process. They can be shelled and eaten raw. But with the Black Walnut, you do need to get the shell from the hull and then let it dry before eating. In some cases you may also want to roast the nut before eating, depending upon what stage of decomposition the hull was in when you found it.

If completely black, it’s best to leave it to the wildlife, because the tannins have leached into the nut meat and made it bitter. If the hull is still green, cut it from the nut, wash and set the nut (still in shell) out to dry.

The hickory nut needs no processing at all. You can take it from it’s hull, shell and eat it. The hickory I found wasn’t worth the trouble. I broke open the shell and the meat was tiny. The taste was a bit bland, but Jack (my dog) enjoyed it.

You can also find acorns, pecans and chinquapins in the area.

Time to go nuts!

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