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The first time I saw an unhusked black walnut I thought it was an old tennis ball. Now I notice them everywhere. I've been getting a lot of questions locally about how to husk these tough nuts. I've never tried it myself, but I'm told it's not an easy thing to do. I know it's messy, because my squirrels leave stains everywhere.

Steve Nix, About.com's Guide to Forestry, has five old black walnut trees that all together have the potential of producing about 3,000 nuts, so he's cracked a few in his time. Steve has put together a photo how-to on collecting and husking black walnuts. So if you've been puzzling how to get the nut out of the husk, here's your answer.

Photo: Marie Iannotti


November 11, 2007 at 5:18 pm
(1) Sue WV. says:

We had a butternut tree in our fruny yard they are about like walnut we would let them lay in the driveway that was gravled and let the car run over them to shell them done a nice job and not so messy.

October 6, 2009 at 8:35 am
(2) Cynthia says:

rubber boots to stomp them, and rubber gloves to pick out the nut. lay out on chicken wire to dry for a few days, then just take an anvil and a ballpeen hammer and crack away! been doing it this way for 35+ years. it’s a good way to pass a chilly winter evening. :)

October 6, 2009 at 11:18 am
(3) Marie Iannotti says:

Cynthia, it sounds like a good way to relieve stress, too.

October 6, 2009 at 11:26 am
(4) mrowens says:

i did harvest the black walnut! first i let them sit out in the sun for a while, then peeled the green coats off, then let them sit for a few weeks. Then cracked them open with a workbench vise! Garnered about 10 ounces of walnut meat. I would buy it next time!

October 7, 2009 at 9:23 am
(5) REB says:

We have two black walnut trees on our property. They are the last trees to get leaves in the Spring and the first to lose them in the Fall. The nuts attract squirrels. The husks on the nuts stain everything. The nuts are difficult to crack and you always get pieces of shell in the results. My best advice is to forget these dirty trees and buy the prepared nuts. The best thing I can say about black walnut trees is that they make nice furniture!

October 11, 2009 at 11:38 am
(6) Joy from Cincinnati says:

Does anyone know how often these trees lose their nuts? The reason I ask is because we have lived in our house for just three years and never noticed it before but this year these nuts are just bombarding our house like meteorites! At first we didn’t know what it was (especially when it happened in the middle of the night!)but have come to the realization that they are the tennis ball size nuts.How did we not notice this the past two falls?
It’s actually quite amusing now (except for the cleanup)!

October 17, 2009 at 4:07 pm
(7) tammy says:

the squirrels always get to ours before they even fall off the tree and if by chance one hits the ground, its gone before you know it.

October 18, 2009 at 2:34 pm
(8) Marie Iannotti says:

The squirrels harvest my hazelnuts just before they’re ready to pick. If I catch them in the trees in time, I run out and grab what I can.

October 18, 2009 at 2:38 pm
(9) Marie Iannotti says:

Joy, they should produce a crop every year, but some years will be much heavier than others. Maybe your tree is young and is just starting to produce a heavy load?

October 28, 2009 at 2:28 am
(10) joe says:

i have been collecting and cracking black walnuts and hickory nuts for more than 20 years. i make a hand cracker that can crack the nuts in half and then cut each quarter out, most of the time in one piece

October 28, 2009 at 12:13 pm
(11) Marie Iannotti says:

Joe, it sounds like you should think about marketing it.

October 29, 2009 at 12:09 am
(12) joe says:

i have considered marketing the idea,but the cracker would be hard to use unless you also know how to use it. the cracker itself is not expensive,and is not hard to use.anyone with average grip could handle it. but it will cut you if you dont watch what you are doing. I made it for hickory nuts but it works just as well on walnuts. actually it works better or faster on black walnuts. at this time i have over 2 lb of hickory nuts and 1 lb of black walnuts cracked out.

November 10, 2009 at 10:03 am
(13) Denise says:

This is my first year harvesting black walnuts, so I’m learning everything from scratch. I found that a 10-lb ground tamper (the kind you use to pack down dirt: it’s nothing more than a big square piece of metal attached to a handle) works wonders! Spread your walnuts out on the ground and start pounding. It squishes the nuts out of the softer hulls and loosens the nuts in even the firmest hulls. Since the tamper is about 12″x12″ you can squish the hulls off a bunch of them at a time. I had my kids picking up the loose nuts as I pounded about 8 sq ft of nuts in less than 10 minutes.

November 10, 2009 at 1:39 pm
(14) Marie Iannotti says:

Denise, I’m a big fan of low tech and child labor. Great idea.

October 12, 2010 at 2:53 pm
(15) Amy Jeanroy says:

I have the most amazing spice cake that uses black walnuts. Worth every second of the effort it takes to get those darn nuts out.

Amy J

October 12, 2010 at 3:05 pm
(16) Marie Iannotti says:

Amy, is the recipe on your web site? Give us the link.

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