Every fall we are bombarded with green hand grenades. They fall from the trees with a thud or a thump, and lay on the ground where they become ball-bearings under my feet as I head down the hill to the chicken coop. Then they begin to rot; they squish when you step on them. The squirrels run around gathering the nut from inside the green husks and tap them against the tree trunks with the vengeance of a woodpecker. Yes, it’s black walnut season.
Last year, I called the local extension service to see if there is any place locally that processes these nuts – they never called back. This year, I decided I would take matters into my own clean hands. I put on rubber gloves and gathered four five-gallon buckets of the green husked nuts. Then I spent several hours with a paring knife, slicing into the husk and releasing the nut shell. I ended up with about three trash bags of green husks, and about 7 gallons of hard nuts – and black hands – because the rubber gloves apparently weren’t black walnut proof.
I washed the nuts in a big bucket using a rake to agitate them and get the remaining husks to fall off, drained the black sludge water numerous times, and then put the nuts on the shelves in my greenhouse to dry.
After much research on the web, I settled on “Grandpa’s Goody Getter;” a massive nutcracker with a lever that makes it look like you’re playing the slot machines. With each pull of the handle, I hit the jackpot if the nut cracks cleanly and the nut meat falls out. More often than not, it takes a tiny pair of clippers and a nut pick to coax the meat out of the shell.
Countless hours later, with hands that still won’t wash clean – I have two pints of nut meat. Yes, 20 gallons worth of green-husked nuts gave us two pints of edible nut meat. This IS nuts.
I’ve been researching better ways to do this (and keep my hands clean). I’ll let you know if next year’s nut harvest is less nutty.