I’m not really a fan of walnuts and that makes me a little bit sad since they’re such a prolific food source in Appalachia. This year’s crop is, ahem–nuts–which might be a sign of a hard winter ahead. We can hardly walk around the driveway for rolling on walnuts.

I remember being in the Strawberry Festival parade one year, riding on a float dressed in “pioneer” clothing with my parents. To keep us busy and to look vaguely authentic we had a stump, a hammer, and lots of walnuts. Apparently I liked them better back then.

If you have a walnut tree and are wondering how to make use of all those free nuts, here’s what you do:

  1. Put on stout gloves and old clothes.
  2. Gather fallen nuts and process them somewhere you don’t mind getting dirty.
  3. To remove the green husk, roll them under your foot (or car tire) and peel the husk away. If the husk has turned black, you can still remove it and eat the nut, but it won’t taste quite as good.
  4. Dispose of the husks in a spot where you aren’t trying to grow anything. They contain a compound called juglone that inhibits growth.
  5. Rinse the nuts several times to remove any last bits of hull.
  6. Lay out or hang (in a mesh bag) the cleaned nuts to dry. The longer they dry, the more the nutmeat will pull away from the shell and the easier it will be to remove. Start with at least a week.
  7. Shell with a a hammer–tap, tap, tap until the shell cracks. Beware of flying bits of shell which are hard and sharp.
  8. Pick out the nutmeat and enjoy!

The hulls can also be used as a strong, color-fast dye in a rich brown. If you try to husk the nuts without gloves, you’ll found out just how strong and color-fast it is.