I. Black Walnut Overview
Black walnut(Juglans nigra), also known as Eastern black walnut or American walnut, is native to North America and grows throughout the United States and southern Canada. The hull of black walnut is a solid covering and does not split open. If not removed promptly, the hulls will begin to rot and the flavor of nutmeat will be affected. The shell of black walnut is extremely hard to crack and the nutmeat comes out in pieces. Processing black walnuts can be done industrially or at home and the nut can be cracked by black walnut cracker machine or with various handy tools.
II. Learning about Black Walnut
2.1 Black Walnut Uses
Black walnut is one of the fine North American hardwoods. The green hulls are often dried and used to make tincture or powder. They are also used to make wood stain, ink, hair dye, clothing dye, etc. The ground shells are used as an abrasive for cleaning and cosmetics, as a sealing agent in oil wells and as filtration media to separate oil from water. Black walnut kernel is high in unsaturated fat and protein. The nuts have a bold flavor. It’s a baking nut, not a snacking nut. The nutmeat finds uses in baking, ice cream, candies, etc. Black walnuts are also pressed by oil expeller into black walnut oil which can be added in pastas, meats, vegetables, salads, salmon, etc.
2.2. Black Walnuts vs Regular Walnuts
Black walnuts differ from English walnuts(Juglans regia), the regular walnuts in the market. While black walnut is native to North America, English walnuts, also called Persian walnuts, have their origins in the Middle East. Black walnut has a stronger flavor and the shell is thicker and particularly tough to crack. Unlike English walnut meat which is easily removed in whole or half, black walnut comes out in pieces as the nuts are tightly wedged into the shells. English walnuts are cultivated in orchards, while black walnut grows wild in forests, pastures, and yards.
III. Harvesting and Processing Black Walnuts
3.1 How to Process Black Walnuts Industrially
Hammons Products Company is the world’s leading commercial black walnut processor. In October and early November, the company sets up 200+ buying/hulling stations across the Midwestern and Eastern states. People collect black walnuts from the ground by hand or using a handy nut-gathering tool and bring them to the buying stations. Usually, about 65% of the company’s black walnuts comes from Missouri. Black walnuts are an alternate crop. The company purchased 22 million pounds of black walnuts in 2014, while in 2015 it was less than 10 million pounds.
At the hulling locations, the operator runs the nuts through a hulling machine to remove the green hull while the nuts deposited in mesh bags. Black walnuts are paid for the weight after hulling. In 2017, the company will pay a record $15 per 100 pounds of hulled black walnuts. The mesh bags are stacked and dried in open-air storage barns or large silo-like bins with specialized forced-air drying systems.
At the processing plant, the nuts are cracked by the black walnut cracker machine and then the kernels are separated from the shells by electronic sorting machines and the nut pieces are sorted by size. Inspectors visually examine the nuts for any remaining shells or bad nuts. After a final metal detector scan, the nutmeats are boxed for shipment. The average yield is 6 1/2 to 7 pounds of nutmeat per 100 pounds of in-shell nuts.
3.2 How to Process Black Walnuts at Home
Step 1: Removing the Hulls
Black walnuts will stain anything they touch. When processing, be sure to wear old clothes, shoes and gloves. Then use one of the following methods to dehull the walnut.
* Use a hammer or rock to smash the hulls open.
* Squish the nuts with your shoe and kick off the husk.
* Use a knife to cut a line around the husk and then twist both sides and pull them apart.
* Filling a burlap with green walnuts, secure the bag shut, and drive your car back and forth over the bag.
Step 2: Cleaning the Nuts
After husking, there is still much husk material stuck to the nuts. You can spray the nuts with a powerful hose to remove the debris. Or fill a bucket of black walnuts with water and rinse for at least 5 cycles.
Step 3: Drying the Nuts
Put black walnuts in a cool, dry place with good air circulation. Dry and cure for a couple of weeks.
Step 4: How to Crack Black Walnuts
Black walnut is extremely hard to crack. To shell black walnut, use a heavy-duty nutcracker or a small hammer. Or place the walnut lengthwise in a vise grip and apply pressure until it cracks open. The nutmeat can be picked out using a nutpick or other sharp tool.
Step 5: Storing the Nutmeat
Shelled black walnut can be eaten fresh, roasted, or stored in the freezer for up to two years.