Appalachian Food Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

Black Walnuts – The First Step

hulling blackwalnuts
Now that you know Black Walnuts are my favorite tree-I’ll tell you they’re also one of my favorite nuts-even though some people think they are too much trouble to fool with.

Black walnuts have a green hull that must be removed before you can even see the shell which contains the nut. It’s best to wait till the walnuts fall from the tree before you collect them-if you try to pick them from the tree you’ll find the green hull is too hard to remove easily.

As you pick up black walnuts-you’ll notice some are still fairly firm and green while others are black and down right mushy. I advise you to pick them all up-the more disgusting ones-are just farther along in the natural decomposition process of loosing their green hull. And you’ll quickly discover they are easier to hull-even if they are messier to deal with.

how to hull black walnuts
There are several different ways to remove the outer green hull from the walnut-but no matter which method you choose to use-I recommend you wear gloves, preferably water proof-if you don’t you’ll end up with stained hands.

Many folks spread the nuts out in their driveway and run over them with a car or tractor-letting the wheels do the work. Some folks make a hole in a board and ‘hammer’ the nut through-the nut falls through the hole while the hull stays on top-you can see how Janet’s family uses the board hammer method by clicking here.

I have an old serrated knife I use for gardening chores. I take the knife and make a circular cut around the hull and twist each side off.

bugs in walnuts
I will forewarn you-most every walnut hull will have fly larvae in them-they look disgusting but won’t hurt you or the walnut.


After I remove the hull I drop the walnut into a 5 gallon bucket of water. This kills all the little hull inhabitants and gets rid of any stubborn hull fibers that stick to the walnut.

After my bucket is fairly full I stir the walnuts around a couple of times and pour them out to dry (you should think about where you pour the water-as it is like a walnut stain). I have several greenhouse type trays that I put the walnuts on-that way the water drips through the holes on the bottom and the walnuts get good air circulation from all sides. I set the trays out in the sun-and take them in at night until they are dry. Another great way to dry them-is to store them near a heat source-our wood stove works especially well for drying walnuts. Depending on the squirrel population in your neck of the woods-you may need to watch the walnuts closely if you leave them outside to dry.

Now after all that work-you’re still not ready to crack those nuts just yet. You should continue to let them dry/cure for at least a few weeks. In a few days or so-I’ll show you how to crack them open and get the goodie.

If you’ve got a different method for removing the hull-I hope you’ll leave a comment and tell me about it.

Tipper

 

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31 Comments

  • Reply
    Barbara Parker
    October 19, 2020 at 2:37 pm

    Thanks for your words of wisdom about black walnuts. My Mother used to always work hard getting the walnuts picked up and all the other steps to get them ready for our black walnut cakes at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was a family tradition that I still carry on. I use the white fluffy, seven minute icing and I put lots of walnuts in the batter too. The cake is better if you can keep it in a cake plate for a few days so the walnut flavor mingles into the cake batter before putting on the frosting. Oh, it it sooo good! All that work is worth it !

  • Reply
    Jack S.
    October 8, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    We have some of those trees growing near us. I found out our hamster loves them even though our family doesn’t.

  • Reply
    Judy
    December 12, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Since I don’t like the mess of the walnut hulls, I would put on an old pair of shoes and just step on the walnuts (squish by twisting your foot and kick out the walnut) at the tree. (On the farm, not in someone’s yard)
    Leaving the hulls behind, and with gloves, pick up the walnuts and take only them home with me.

  • Reply
    John Dilbeck
    November 20, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    Hi Tipper,
    Yes, it’s a lot of work getting to those black walnuts, but lots of people I know think it’s worth it.
    I don’t particularly like them. They have a bitter aftertaste that spoils the initial taste for me.
    Mom and Pop loved them. Pop would hull and harvest them and Mom would bake walnut breads, cookies, and cakes throughout the winter, for as long as they lasted.
    Pop used to put as many walnuts away as he could. He’d throw the ones still in their hulls into big gunny sacks and let them sit, sometimes for months. Usually, the cold weather would kill the larvae. (At least, that’s the way I remember it.)
    When he wanted something good to eat, he’d pour one of the sacks out on the driveway and drive over them a few times to dehull them.
    Then, they’d be put in a basket behind the wood heater to dry for a week or two.
    I’ve seen him spend hours on cold rainy days sitting in his chair cracking the walnuts and picking out the delicious nuggets.
    Sometimes he’d roast them before cracking. Other times he’d crack them while they were still “green.”
    (I don’t think he ever roasted any nuts, including pecans, walnuts, or peanuts, without lamenting the loss of the wild chestnuts. He always said chestnuts were the best ever and Christmas just wasn’t the same without them.)
    Leastways, that’s how I remember it.

  • Reply
    William
    November 17, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    tipper,
    thanks for the steps,of harvesting black walnuts, do not know if i could get pass the fly larvae, though. My wife and I enjoy your blog.
    William

  • Reply
    Becky
    November 17, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    When I was younger my family used to jack the rear end of the car just a couple of inches from the ground, prop a piece of plywood up behind the car. Then someone would sit in the drivers seat and put the car in gear and give it a little throttle while another person sent the walnuts under the tire. The hull would be removed between the ground and the tire. It’s best if you have concrete or some other hard surface under the car. Honestly, I seen a neighbor doing this when I was about 7 or 8 and came home and told my dad about it and he tried it. And it worked great.
    By the way, you just reminded me I need to get out there and start picking up our black walnuts before it gets too cold.

  • Reply
    Granny Sue
    November 17, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Our walnuts were skint this year too, Tipper, although I did collect a few along the road one day. I KNOW I have some in the freezer somewhere but it’s going to an excavation to find them.
    You know that water can be used for actual walnut stain. You can soak walnuts in kerosene to make a stain too, or just drop the hulls in kerosene. Strain it to get out the husks and bits, and there ya go. We’ve used it in the past and it works fine. You can also use roofing tar and kerosene to make a dark stain.
    I have a great recipe for black walnut cookies that I need to post on my blog. First I have to find the walnuts, though!

  • Reply
    Osagebluffquilter
    November 17, 2010 at 11:34 am

    I saw that white larvae in ours too, they give me the creeps!
    You put all our nuts in paper feed sacks to dry.
    It will be a good winter project to crack them in the basement!

  • Reply
    Lanny
    November 17, 2010 at 9:38 am

    My mom and I loved to use black walnuts for a few select recipes. I had heard that they were hard to harvest, thanks for sharing how it is done.

  • Reply
    Chef E
    November 17, 2010 at 9:25 am

    PS- Do they sell black walnuts locally? Seems like a lot of work for such a tasty treat!

  • Reply
    Chef E
    November 17, 2010 at 9:23 am

    LOL I just left a comment on a post I thought was your newest, my google reader disappeared so I have not been over in a while and I googled your site, oh well…hey what I would give for you to send me some black walnuts! I would make ice cream with them. Oh how my mom would make ice cream with them, it was her very favorite! *wink* LOL
    How ya been Tipper? Miss talking to you…

  • Reply
    Jill @ Farm Girl Digital Designs for Heritage Farm
    November 16, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    hi tipper, i love this post! my husband’s mother always made black walnut fudge. although a bit too strong for me, so many in our area love black walnuts! jill

  • Reply
    Brenda Kay Ledford
    November 16, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Tipper,
    What an interesting posting on black walnuts. I love the taste of them and especially love black walnut cake. Hulling the walnuts do stain your hands unless a person is smart like you and wears gloves. Wow! Black walnuts are so good. I like to use them when I make brownies and fudge, too.

  • Reply
    mamabug
    November 15, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    Looks like a lot of hard work Tipper but well worth the effort. We don’t have any black walnut trees around here; loads of pecan trees though. Bet those walnuts are gonna taste so good in some baked goodies. Have a great week.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    November 15, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    I’m not fond enough of black walnuts to do all the work. One year it took me all day long to get enough to make a black walnut cake– which was pretty amazing in small slices but not good enough to tempt me to try again.

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    November 15, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Fascinating post, Tipper! Never had the privelege of tasting these nuts. Once found, they seem like a treasure trove! :))

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 15, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    The Deer Hunter’s Papaw put the green walnuts on the gravel drive and drove over them till they were clean. LOL!
    All I can say is you gotta love them to go through all this!

  • Reply
    Ken
    November 15, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Tipper,
    Thanks for this enjoyable post on
    Black Walnuts. I never knew those
    little larvie worms were flies.
    My brother and his wife also have
    lots of walnut trees on their place and each year they gathered
    and cleaned them in the creek and
    dried the hard centers on their
    deck. And I can remember my dad
    cracking them for us on a big rock
    when I was a small boy. My brother
    and I could eat ’em faster than a
    cop eaten’ doughnuts. I still like
    them today and use them in toppings with coconut in oatmeal
    cakes. By the way, I’m working on
    an adjustable nut-cracking machine
    for a variety of nuts, and its even electric…Ken

  • Reply
    Tipper
    November 15, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Donna-seems like I read they are the larvae of the husk fly.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Tipper
    November 15, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Patty-I’m going to post a few of my favorite Black Walnut recipes in the coming weeks.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at http://www.blindpigandtheacorn.com

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    November 15, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Our trees didn’t produce many nuts this year, but I’ll keep your post as a reference for the future.

  • Reply
    CJ
    November 15, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Tipper – thanks for posting this~! Myself and the kids collected a small laundry basket full and I was searching online on how to process them – now i know!

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    November 15, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    tipper: they are a little trouble, but the end result is great. my dad was a whiz at processing just about anything that grows. also his trees always received the best of care, like pruning, grafting, and thinning. but black walnuts were his favorite nut. his trees are still doing well out here in the wild west. waiting for the rest of your fixing them “warnuts” see ya later. k.o.h.

  • Reply
    Paul Certo
    November 15, 2010 at 11:58 am

    I have a BW tree in my yard, and another on the adjoining vacant lot extends over my drive. The squirrels are busy burying the nuts.
    I dobated gathering some, but maybe the squirrels need ’em more than I do.
    Paul

  • Reply
    Janet
    November 15, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Thanks for the click over to my site, Tipper. My family loves black walnuts! And, thankfully, this year I had help hulling them. It is a messy job, but the nuts are worth the effort! I’d say a lot of people would stop at the first site of those fly larvae, but not the true black walnut lovers. Mine have dried now and we had a nice day Saturday, so I started cracking them. They will taste good this year in all my baked goodies.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    November 15, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Hey Tipper,
    Great post as usual….
    Our walnut trees didn’t produce many nuts this year, but our sons “yard tree” in town did, so he had lots to share with us and the neighbors..DH picked up nuts this weekend, so we have a couple of boxes to husk….
    We have lots of hickory nuts as we did last year. I love them too..but you have to be patient and with a “sharp pick” to get the “little devil meats” out, but Oh boy, are they delishous in candy and cookies! They are a lot cleaner to pick..we just gather up the nuts..let’um dry a little. No nasty stains! DH cracks a bucket and brings them in…I sit and pick while watching TV, that way I forget how hard it is to get out the little pieces! lol
    I look them three or four times for the “tiny shell bits” before putting in the freezer..I still have about two bags of hickory nut meats in the freezer..The more mast you have the less holes (worms) in the hickory nuts! LOL
    Some years every nut will have a little hole..ewww!
    PS…Has anyone ever used a old corn sheller for husking walnuts?I just wondered if it works well…Also some say that there is a way to make the Black Walnut nut meats more oily and tasty..I think Mom used to say by soaking in water and then drying slow…does anyone know?
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    November 15, 2010 at 9:48 am

    yep, those maggots are nasty! I remember one yr, gathering black walnuts from our yard, I did use gloves to get the hull off but…they were cloth not plastic. So..my hands had a nice walnut stain on them.
    Hmm. I do like black walnuts. How do you use yours?
    Blessings
    Patty H.

  • Reply
    Sandra
    November 15, 2010 at 8:49 am

    I love walnuts, but did not know how much work is involved in getting the eating part. you could die material with that water from the looks of it. thanks for all the info, now i will apprecaite them more

  • Reply
    cannedquilter
    November 15, 2010 at 7:46 am

    Nice to see we are not the only ones that put them in the driveway and run over them!

  • Reply
    cannedquilter
    November 15, 2010 at 7:45 am

    Glad to see we are not the only ones that put them in the driveway and run over them 🙂

  • Reply
    Donna W
    November 15, 2010 at 6:52 am

    I didn’t know whose worms were fly larvae!

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