(Wal)nuts to you

In moving into our new place, we inherited numerous black walnut trees which a long-ago resident(s) decided were just the thing to plant, so as to inhibit surrounding plant growth and once a year drop a profusion of large squashy fruit which are fun to mow over as they gradually turn black and decay.

This fall I decided to harvest and process some of the crop, and having dried the nuts I smashed them with a hammer to retrieve the nutmeat. After washing, I sampled the nuts and they are less crisp and somewhat, well, gamier tasting than the dried storebought walnuts I’ve had.

Will these home-harvested walnut pieces benefit from oven-toasting*, and if so how long do you recommend and at what temperature?

*Mrs. J. has promised to make a walnut-cranberry pie for Thanksgiving.

I assume that you’re used to English walnuts. Black walnuts are indeed much gamier.

Yes, they’re very good toasted, especially in fruit salads. Try 300 F for 10 minutes, then shuffle them and bake for another 10.

One day my sister’s doorbell rang. It was some guy wanting to buy her black walnut tree (i.e. cut it down for the wood). It appears to still be a thing.

Thanks. I wound up toasting them at between 200-300 degrees for several short periods totaling about 30 minutes, sampling in between. The final product is still stronger-tasting than I’m used to, but mellowed and quite good.

I’ve thought about selling a couple of our walnut trees, but for now I’ll regard them as a growing investment.

Black walnut wood is indeed beautiful. I have made a pretty penny selling stuff made from it-inlayed cutting boards, little keepsake boxes, etc. I’ve got 5 or so trees in my yard, but I like them for the shade, so won’t be harvesting the lumber anytime soon.

I have one of those suckers at the edge of my front yard, by the road. While I appreciate its easily-mowed-through leaves, mowing across the nuts sure is an experience! I do say it makes a terrific smell when I chop them a bit. The squirrels and crows are huge fans.

Since mine is on the road, there’s a few weeks when cars drive by and pop the nuts that are on the road. Kinda weird to hear pops outside the house like that. But also makes the crows super happy to have them opened.

Speaking of which…my grandma, a Mennonite farm lady, used to collect all her black walnuts and put them on the driveway for crushing. Just roll the car over and half the work is done.

Me, I can’t even be bothered to scoop any up off the lawn. Somehow, someway, they are completely gone by spring.

Anyway, happy eating! Now I want some cranberry walnut salad mmmm…

The trees may or may not be valuable; if they’re branched out too close to the ground, as will happen with most lawn trees because they’re not crowded by others, usually buyers won’t want them.

The nuts are IMO delicious, but hard to get at, though the squirrels seem pretty good at it. The outer green shells will stain your hands, or anything else, pretty much indefinitely; or till that layer of skin wears off.

Some things – such as grasses and bramble fruits – will grow fine next to them. Quite a lot of garden plants won’t.

The walnuts were too much damn work for the amount/quality we got to bother harvesting them.

But this past spring, I went in a different direction: Black Walnut syrup. It’s delicious on pancakes, etc! Consider tapping them this spring.

Oh, and the nuts make quite the thump when they land on the roof of the house. My next door neighbor put a metal roof on his house. Sounds like a gunshot.

I have a black walnut in my backyard. This was a particularly fruitful year for the species in Ontario. The amount of fruit dropped this year was probably equal to the amount of the 2 previous years.

It is also closer to the end of its life than the start. It will be problematic to replace.

How old is it? They can live 250 years or longer.

But – oh, hell. We just lost all the ash trees; and now there’s something killing black walnuts, too.

I’m not sure but the tree specialist said it was at least 80. Personally, I think it is older considering the neighbourhood.

I really hope it isn’t a pest or disease. I lost a large green ash to the emerald ash borer a few years back.

80 would be pretty young for a black walnut.

Is it as much work as tapping corn plants for syrup?


Black walnuts produce mast crops (large numbers of drupes) on average of twice every five years.