Here's a little foraging and garbling tale from Paul, on the finicky business of handling black walnuts.
A few years back a friend from Kentucky gave me some black walnuts from his folks’ farm. I was immediately addicted. I helped him gather some in Ottawa last year, but wanted my own supply. Our little village should have some walnut trees, I reasoned, but had no success locating them, because I was looking for a HUGE tree, like the massive one in an old part of Ottawa we saw last year.
I was driving down our main street late September when I had to brake to avoid a squirrel carrying one of these in its mouth:
I screeched to a halt and looked up. Wow! A beautiful tree, full of green husks. I got out and picked up one the squirrel had missed, or was going to come back for. (Sorry, guy).
Once back home, I peeled it and got my first lesson in walnut foraging. The peels smell like iodine, and stain like iodine; the fact is, it is iodine. They are used to make dyes in some parts of the world. Stained hands or not, iodine is safe, the body will only absorb so much.The black walnut also has very potent medicinal uses, especially for men. Walnuts are shaped like prostate glands, need I say more?
Being a polite Pontiacer, I waited until I saw the owner of the house and asked permission before I started collecting in earnest. The owner confirmed it was a walnut tree, and I found two more just up the street and asked them also. They brought out a ladder for me to climb to shake the branches for the plentiful bounty.
The above trees are only about twenty years old, and held more walnuts than I could use.
To get rid of the husk is very messy in the green state, given the iodine stains.. I was determined to dry them in the shed. The problem was it got damp for quite a while, and the husks started to mold and rot, and tiny little worms appeared on some of them. Ick! The shot above shows a semi-dried walnut, but it was still slimy inside and I stained my fingers just splitting it open a bit. Anyway, not wanting rot, I brought in my 200-300 walnuts inside and dried them in the stove room, getting rid of any slimy ones first. When the husks are dried, they peel with one small hammer blow and don’t stain so much.
Next I cured them out of the husk for about 10 days in the stove room. They then look like this:
Ready to shell and eat; I roast them a bit on the stove, and some of them crack open of their own accord. I hammer the rest. Getting the meat out from the five separate compartments is fiddly, but well worth the effort. Wire snips do it best. I love the roasted and sweet, slightly medicinal taste.
It is November the first today, and I took this shot of the lawn in front of the walnut house:
Lots left for the squirrel...and he won’t get infections from cuts or scrapes, I'll wager.