Harvesting Black Walnuts
Before you try harvesting black walnuts on your own, it is important that you understand the black walnut harvesting process. By gaining a basic understanding of the black walnut harvesting process, you will not only yield a more rewarding harvest but you will reduce or eliminate frustration.
Black walnuts (Juglans nigra) have a savory flavor that makes them popular as an ingredient in baked, gourmet dishes. In addition to their taste, black walnuts are loaded with healthy anti-oxidants and omega fats. Black walnuts are relative scarce so harvesting them can be quite rewarding financlially.
Black walnuts reach maturity during the the fall. You can tell that they are ripe by examining the hull, which will turn yellowish in color when the nuts are ripe. Additionally, the hulls become soft such that you can leave a finger impression on the hull by applying pressure with your hand.
Ideally, you want to harvest your black walnuts right off the tree. This will ensure maximum quality. After picking, you should immediately start the hulling process. Be aware that hulling black walnuts can be quite a task because the hulls contain juice that will stain pretty much anything that it touches. So be sure to use gloves and tongs when hulling. Also select a location that will not be vunerable to the discoloration left by the hull juice. Hull juice will even stain cement so it is advisable to use buckets and protect your clothing from discoloration. Remove the hulls and carefully wash the nuts in water to remove dirt and other debris. Discard any nuts that float on water. After washing, the black walnuts need to be cured so that their flavor can develop. Curing is a simple process. Just give the black walnuts about two to three weeks of time to dry in a cool, dry room.
After the curing period, it is time to begin the cracking process. Trying to crack black walnuts with a hammer is not a good idea. Worse case scenario, you will wind up smashing the nut meat much and at best you will simply waste a lot of time. For these reasons, you shoud rely on a black walnut cracking tool such as the Master Cracker or the Drill Cracker.
The last step in the black walnut harvesting process is storage. The best way to store black walnuts is to place the nut meat in a freezer bag and freeze. Freezing preserves freshness and protects against mold and other undesirable elements.