On walnuts

The kid and I went exploring in the 100 Acre Wood on Saturday.  I swear I have seen an abandoned stand of apple trees on the property, but despite hours of bushwacking, we failed to find it.  All, however, was not lost.  We found walnuts.

These are black walnuts.  I had another batch of English walnuts: they are about half the size.  Note the dye on my fingers:  through the gloves even!

People have remarked, both in person and on the blog, that I appear to be a rather collected, cool person, someone with her proverbial head screwed on straight.  I dunno.  I wouldn’t say I am so even-tempered.   But I do think I have found the secret of my relative sanguinity:  lots of the stuff that I do on the farm allows me to blow off steam!  Case in point (or, case du jour):  shelling the walnuts.

The slag on the driveway is a great aid in shelling.  I visualize the bad things in this world being crushed under my heel as I do it.

If they’ve fallen from the tree, they’re ready to go.  One needs to remove the husk before curing and storing.  In days of yore, the husks were used as a furniture stain:  it is a ready dye that will just as readily go through gloves and stain your fingers and clothing, so…get out the barbecue tongs to handle them, and wear junky clothes.  I step-stomped on these things to crack the husk then rolled it toe-heel-toe to dispatch the rest of the husk.  Moving the husked nuts with the tongs, I agitated them further against the pebbly drive with the boots and a bit of water from the hose.  A final spray-off,  then I picked them up and set them in the shed to dry for a few days on a screen.  I will further store them in some old onion mesh bags, hanging them in the somewhat moist, not-too-warm basement.  Then I will shell them as needed.  I love toasted walnuts atop my salads!

Hosed off and ready for curing

13 responses to “On walnuts

  1. Oh boy, does this bring back memories. We did this for years with our black walnuts from our tree. We finally had to cut it down though, as Aden turned out to be lethally allergic to the nuts. You know……I don’t miss them one bit!!! 😉

  2. Oh, Angie, walnuts too? I thought it was just peanuts with your poor girl. Ah. Such vigilance you have to muster. Is it all nuts then? It’s so confusing because peanuts are, you know, legumes. Our daughter doesn’t love walnuts but seems to tolerate them. (Just as well because that way they’re all mine.)

  3. : ) You and the family are welcome to come visit and collect ALL the walnuts from the yard! We have 8 -9 trees and I am too under-resourced to harvest. The other issue is the trees make it difficult for other fruit trees to produce (too much acid?)
    The trees are so beautiful that I feel bad to cut them down. Looking at your post – I might just go ahead and harvest some and see how far I can go : ).

    Do you like the aroma of the fruits…? Reminds me of homeopathic medicine or something similar from my childhood….not sure.

    Kevin (http://bastish.net/index_2.html) tells me that to get rid of the green shells you can ferment it in the ground.

    btw, look around the property when you go next and you will see loads of little walnut baby trees around. Darwin would be amazed to see their survival/expansion strategy. You could bring some back to your yard and plant in the woods (outside your productive garden).

  4. If you get some of the walnuts in early June (no later), you can pickle them for English ploughman’s lunch!
    Also: Is this what they mean by “walnut finish” on furniture? Stain? Cool.

  5. I have read that the leftover slag, when dumped into a slow moving stream or pond, will stun a good number of fish. They will float to the surface ready to be collected for dinner. Illegal practice almost everywhere, but good survival knowledge.

  6. WF: Hah! If New Jersey was closer to Michigan, I would be there 🙂 Yeah, they’re quite amazing trees, aren’t they. And beautiful. They do release some kind of no-grow thing that makes it hard for anything to grow underneath them, as you stated with your Darwin reference. It’s a good point about finding some baby trees, too; I saw a few so I might just do that. And I love the way they smell. These things never made it into the house but I could smell them in the bags I harvested with and they smelled just lovely. And getting rid of the shells really wasn’t hard to do. You need to get rid of them to eat the nuts though, and the sooner the better, so even though fermenting in the ground is kind of labor-free, doing the boot stomp isn’t too hard.

    CC: Well, that’s a good idea, pickling the greenies. Wow that would even mean more work for me though…albeit tempting. I like a ploughman’s lunch!

    JCC: slag is some nasty stuff. Ours is the byproduct of iron leaching at a smelting place nearby. Normally, it’s used as aggregate in concrete. Considering how iron-filled our soil already is, I figured putting down the slag wouldn’t have many ill effects to the water table but what you mentioned is certainly true. Spookly true: poor fish!

  7. Yeah, Aden is anaphylactic to all tree nuts and peanuts. Apparently the proteins are similar, and many people who are anaphylactic to peanut may become allergic to tree nuts. Aden, unfortunely is anaphylactic to all. But, I did eat ALOT of nuts/peanuts when I was pregnant with her (I couldn’t tolerate meat when I was pregnant with her, so I was upping my protein in other ways) so she had a lot of in utero exposure to the proteins, heightening her reaction I guess. We do have to avoid legumes as well, since she may develop allergies to those too, due to the peanut allergy. I actually miss growing beans and peas more than I miss eating nuts or peanut butter.

  8. Wow, as a woman who grew up in a concrete jungle, I can’t tell you how foreign this post is. 🙂

    I know some friends who harvest walnuts here and make nocino … I might have to follow along some time.

  9. Wow. I’ve seen horse chestnut fruits, but had no idea walnuts looked like that — I’d have mistaken them for pears!

    We deal with allergies too — I can’t do gluten or casein, the bf is allergic to buckwheat and has an anaphylactic response to venison, and one of my six cats can’t have fish or dairy (and just try finding cat food without some kind of ‘beneficial’ omega-3 fish meal in it these days). (Why don’t cat food makers make “mouse” or “bug” flavored cat food?!?!)

    In some ways it sucks, but because it keeps me away from processed foods (and forced me to learn how to cook for us humans), it’s a blessing in disguise.

    I am _really_ glad, though, that I didn’t inherit my mother’s brother’s anaphylactic reaction to bee stings.

  10. Angie, oh boy would I miss beans too! Does it get so bad you need to watch the birds’ feed, as there is lots of soy protein in that. Just wondering.

    Jen, hah! Well let’s just say that if you live in the middle of nowhere it’s imperative for a foodie to kind of “go natural,” otherwise I would bankrupt myself with my habits. Plus I think it is fun to chase down where things come from, and your friends’ nocino is an excellent example, you know?

    Firefly, my daughter was the first to spot them, saying, “wow, look at these large limes!” Man food allergies would really blow. You are absolutely right about recognizing the upside, though: you certainly have lots of control if you D.I.Y. Our old dog developed some kind of skin allergy so I had to make his food for a while (rice and meat: the boy was in heaven even if I nearly gagged, being a vegetarian at the time). Dogs are easy though compared to trying to get a cat to eat.

  11. That is the interesting thing about soy. It’s proteins are different enough, that often times soy is the one legume you don’t have to worry about if you’re allergic to tree nut and peanuts. And often times people who are allergic to soy, can have peanuts and other legumes w/o a problem. So, so far, we’re doing okay with soy. Although the kids have a rather limited access to it compared to others, as we don’t eat much processed foods. I’m thankful that my children aren’t anaphylactic to soy and/or corn…..gosh, I cannot even imagine! We certainly wouldn’t be able to live here, that’s for sure.

  12. Old guy I used to know would drive his pick up over the wallnuts to shell them. He’d do it on the grass and SWORE by it!


  13. El: I was talking about the outer green walnut husks. Putting that into a body of water, not gravel.

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