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

Chestnuts

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.

September 25, 2010

Veteran’s Memorial Park/Lake Fayetteville

Filed under: allium, dandelion, Edible plants, Pinus, sumac — Tags: , , , , , , — WildArkansas @ 11:33 pm

common mullein

If you’re a wild food enthusiast, this is a good time to visit Veteran’s Memorial Park.

Here are a  few finds from spending just a little more than an hour.

Chinkapin/Ozark Chestnut

Hickory

Black Walnut

Persimmon (fruit)

Acorn (Red & White)

Dandelion (leaf & flower)

Allium (aerial parts/leaf)

Dwarf Sumac (berries)

Evening Primrose (flower)

Pine (and juniper berries)

Plantago (leaf and root)

Mullein (flower and leaf)

September 6, 2010

Five common edibles anyone can find

duck potato

Fall is here, and some of us who forage regularly begin looking less at the herbaceous leafy stuff and more to the branches of trees (nuts) and roots. The following five edibles are ready right now.

Good luck and have fun.

1. Despite lack of a first frost, chicory root can be dug early. Though related to dandelion, the whole plant is much less noxious than its bitter cousin.

Try digging some of the root and test for taste. If it’s too bitter, wait another month. Chances are, it’s going to be sweet tasting.

All parts of the chicory can be consumed, but at this time of year it’s best to just use the root.

2. Maypops can be found on disturbed ground. The egg-shaped yellow-green fruit is sweet when ripe, but very seedy. People of the Appalachians reserved the fruit almost exclusively for creating a maypop drink by pouring boiling water of the fruit and straining, but the fruit is a good trailside nibble despite the seeds.

3. The duck potato or Sagitaria latifolia was early this year, but in ponds throughout NW Arkansas there is an abundance of the plant.

Get your shovel out, because these babies are not coming out without a fight. I’ve tried repeatedly stomping for the prize with no results. This is one you’ll have to work for.

4. Ahhhh…the sweet smell of chamomile. Sweet dreams come with this bouquet. Not only is chamomile great for soothing the worried mind, but it tastes great and smells even better.

If you’re not going to make tea with it, pick for just the sweet smell or use for pouporri.

Find this near lakes, ponds, rivers growing on the drier ground. Moist environment without being soggy. The herb has been spotted in several public parks from Rogers through Fayetteville.

5. Oh nuts!

Yes dear readers, it’s time to look up. Those wonderful, protein-packed nuggets of nutrition are here once again.

Black walnut, hickory, pecan and acorns too. They are all here for the picking (up).

The black walnut you want to husk yourself. Do not wait for it to dry, because by that time the worms have gotten into the meat.

In some areas the acorns are falling, in others they are still green. Just take a look around and see what you can find.

I gathered red oak acorns in Springdale that were green and had to boil several times before they were palatable. Be sure to leach the tannins from these babies, because they have a very acrid taste without the proper preparation.

If you travel further west toward Siloam Springs, you may find more white oak that has a less bitter acorn. I’ve been told the white oak acorn is sweet, but have yet to experience it myself.

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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