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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Harvesting Black Walnuts

Posted by John Fulton -

Now is a good time to begin harvesting black walnuts, according to Bob Frazee, natural resources educator for University of Illinois Extension. In general, the light colored black walnut kernels will have a milder flavor than the dark ones. If you prefer light colored kernels, Frazee recommends you hull the nuts as soon as they drop from the tree. Allowing the hulls to partially decompose before hulling causes a discoloration of the kernels.

When black walnuts are mature, their hulls will be thick and fleshy. According to Frazee, they can be mashed and removed by hand, but using mechanical devices such as a corn sheller will make the job a lot easier. After hulling, wash the nuts thoroughly, and spread out away from sunlight to dry for two to three weeks. Then store in a cool, dry place.

Because the hard shell can make it difficult to remove the black walnut kernel, Frazee suggests "tempering" the kernels before the shell is cracked. To "temper" the black walnuts, plan to soak the nuts in water for one to two hours, drain and then keep in a closed container for 10 to 12 hours. The kernels will absorb enough moisture to become tough, yet will remain loose in the shell.

For individuals wanting more information about growing your own nut trees, selecting appropriate nut tree varieties, learning about their insect or disease pests or harvesting nuts, a pamphlet entitled "Nut Growing in Illinois" is available online at this University of Illinois Extension website:

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