Sunday, October 27, 2013

Not all it's cracked up to be.

This time of the year means orange leaves falling, pumpkins, hot cocoa and walnuts.

Walnuts everywhere.

Thousands of walnuts hanging off of leafless limbs and littering the ground. 

 We've been living here nearly ten years now and we've never once harvested the huge bounty of walnuts in our front yard. There are 280 walnuts trees in the grove and I'm thinking it might be time to crack a walnut open and see what's inside. I have to admit though, I've had no desire to eat those walnuts. I don't hate walnuts, I actually like walnuts but I'm not a huge fan of black walnuts.  And that is what we have. What you buy in the store are english walnuts. They are more mild in flavor than that of the black walnut. Black walnuts have a thicker tougher shell and have a more robust flavor than English walnuts, which makes them popular for use in ice cream and baked goods. I bought a bag of black walnuts last year and had to toss em out. They had a very distinctive flavor. I wasn't a fan. But hey, maybe our walnuts will taste better. Home grown stuff is always better right?

First things first, I had to learn how to harvest walnuts. Apparently there is an art to it. Thanks to Google I learned to pick the ones that have already fallen to the ground. Don't bother picking them off of the tree. Also, don't pick up the green ones. Look for the dark brown ones (or mostly brown with a little green). The outer covering comes off a whole lot easier. Trust me. 

I wanted to start with a small batch and just see how it went so I just picked up a little bucket full. I got two more buckets ready, one for the outer husk and one for the actual walnuts. I got a heavy duty pair of leather gloves that I didn't mind turning brown from the oils and a pair of nippers (this is what I call them, they are actually my goat hoof trimmers too...I don't know the actual name of them at the moment). 

I tried a knife but these things worked a whole lot easier at removing the husk. Some were dried out a bit and not messy and others were a wet, oily disgusting mess. All were thrown into a bucket and then laid out in a single layer to dry. Some people said to lay them out for a month or more and some said for only two weeks. I decided to go with two weeks. I used a high tech drying rack (a paint roller tray) and kept them in the shop. Make sure they are kept out of the rain and away from vermin. People online said the drying walnuts could disappear from squirrels or pack rats. We don't seem to have either around here because of our predatory cats that eat everything in a five mile radius. 

So this weekend I decided to open a few of those bad boys up. I kind of thought it would go easily and I'd be rolling in delicious walnut meat. That is not what happened. First I placed the walnut in the vice like so.

Then I used every bit of my strength to pull the lever on the vice to try and squish the walnut. Seriously every bit of my strength. My husband likes to say I'm a wuss but I'm really not. Those are some crazy tough shells. They didn't just pop open either, they splintered everywhere. Nut meat flying all over. This is what you are left with:

So I got to pick through the shards of shell trying to pick out anything resembling walnut meat. It took two hours to go through 55 walnuts (half of my paint roller tray of walnuts). Two hours! So counting the time it took to pick up the walnuts, de-husk them, dry them and crack em open we are talking at least three hours.  Are you curious how much meat I was able to harvest from those 55 walnuts?

I'd be lucky if that was a 1/3 of a cup of nuts. Grumble. So not worth my time but still a good learning experience none the less. This evening I made banana bread and dumped my precious little bowl of walnuts into it. It turned out tasty, but not "three hours of work" tasty.  From now on I'll be buying my walnuts from the store.


Granny Randi said...

value added products...sell to the natural dyers! Connie said she had enough for us to dye for many years!

The Menagerie Momma said...

I think that may be the only way to profit from those nuts. My tiny bowl of walnuts went into the banana bread which was eaten by Sean who pulled three decent sized shell pieces out of his mouth while eating it. He's lucky he didn't break a tooth. Never again!