Black Walnut Bonanza

Black walnut trees love bottomlands growing large with a great ball shape. Those in more open areas produce crops of nuts.

Never confuse these nuts with the pale English walnuts found commonly in stores. These nuts hide inside almost impregnable shells requiring special nutcrackers or heavy hammers to break them open. The nut meats have a pungent, dusky taste perfect for pumpkin recipes.

The trees are among the last to leaf out in the spring. Their leaves begin turning yellow and falling in late August. The nuts fall in September and October.

Five black walnut trees grow around the barn and workshop. Four have the usual big nut surrounded by thick hulls. The other produces bumper crops of slightly smaller nuts with thinner hulls.

Black Walnut nuts hanging on tree
Under that green husk is a black walnut. The husk turns black and a wasp lays eggs in it so larvae fill the husk. A dark brown dye comes from the husks and soon permanently stains hands and clothes. The nut has a strong shell. The company buying the walnuts does sell the nut meats, but makes most of its money from the shells which make a sanding compound used for smoothing precision machine parts. It hurts when a nut drops on your head or back.

A Missouri company buys the walnuts every October. People used to vie with each other over the choicest trees with the largest crops. The line waiting to have the nuts hulled and sold stretched a block and more.

This year the price was the highest I’ve ever seen, $20 a hundred weight. My five trees had big crops and were paving the ground making walking dangerous.

But, between my back and my age, I had to pick up only our normal pathways leaving the others hoping enough squirrels had moved back to collect the rest.

In town I watched for trucks with bags of walnuts. I saw none. No one was picking up walnuts along our road.

collecting black walnuts
At one time I put together a serious truckload of bags of walnuts. There were about 24 bags of nuts in a load. They hulled out to between 400 and 500 pounds. I never made a thousand pounds, but did top 900.

My stash of walnuts grew one bag a day. That old drive to go for a thousand pounds began to gnaw at me. My head told me I was crazy. The temptation grew when a day of high winds brought down even more black walnuts making walking almost impossible.

A truck pulled up while I was milking. A middle aged couple asked if they could pick up my black walnuts. The temptation grabbed at me and slid away into relief.

The black walnuts around the workshop and barn are gone now. There was a big truck load. My temptation is gone with the sacks of nuts.

Find out more about black walnuts in “Exploring the Ozark Hills“.