Photo by Missouri Botanical Garden
This means a stout shell, protecting a rich, oily, strongly-flavored nut, loved by many, including squirrels! The sound of a squirrel’s incisors gnawing through the shell carries from the tree in the corner of my backyard to the deck at the back of the house. We humans have to crack the nuts - not an easy chore. One-handed nutcrackers? Nope, unless you’re Hercules. A hammer works but you need a safe tool to hold the nut--say, tongs or channel-lock pliers.
Black walnut gets ready for winter earlier than almost all the trees native to the U.S. As its leaves turn, squirrels are getting ready too by burying the nuts. Every year three or four young trees appear in my garden. I pull them up by hand if I see them soon enough. If I miss them, within a month they are two feet tall and have a thick root that I have to chop with a mattock.
Most black walnut trees have nuts with small chambers that make the meat tedious to extract. But there are selected trees, such as ‘Thomas,’ with bigger nuts and meat in larger pieces. To learn more visit the web site of the Northern Nut Grower’s Association.
The nuts are surrounded by a thick fibrous husk. Many people remove it with a car: they set the nuts on the driveway and run over them. The husk shucks off, the nuts remain whole. A caution: the husk stains everything it touches, including skin and concrete. The stain is brown.
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