Like many farms in Pennsylvania, we have many black walnut trees that grew up on their own.
You don’t have to have a farm to have harvestable black walnuts. As a child growing up in Pittsburgh, my mother would harvest nuts from trees in the neighborhood.
Personally, I like English Walnuts and find Black Walnuts too strong and astringent. Mom, however, loved black walnuts, as does my brother. They would get together and harvest the nuts, then put them in their favorite white cake recipe, Texas Sheet Cake, and eat the whole thing themselves. I’m obviously missing a gene here — not only do I not like black walnuts, I’m not too fond of Texas Sheet Cake, either. My brother loves Texas Sheet Cake so much, he had Mom make it for his wedding, but the community garden didn’t have black walnuts, so his guests were spared the “nut addition.”
Whatever. Like many PA farmers, I was inclined to “live and let live” on the black walnuts and pretty much just ignore them. But a “find your local farm” listing asked me to check off if I had them (which I do) and I’ve actually received calls from that listing! Then one of my Tuesday NIght Weeding friends had a Christmas Cookie recipe that takes black walnuts. Then, my brother did me a professional favor.
So, now I’m out there picking the black walnuts up from off the ground as pictured:
The husks need to dry before we can shell them, so I’m storing them in racks left over from the garlic harvest:
This isn’t the only season for black walnuts. While the mature walnuts are prized (by some!) in baked goods, the immature walnuts are used in Italy and France to make liquors. You can find the recipes here and here. The blogsphere raves about how good these liquors are and I do enjoy making liquors, so maybe I’ll try them out next year and blog about it.
If you’re interested in mature black walnuts for baking and/or immature black walnuts for liquor making, we have plenty! You are welcome (e-mail me first!) to come and harvest what you can use, then simply make a donation to Hill Creek Farm.