Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Juglans nigra

This slimy, alien-shaped, orbish-thingy resembling the globe with one hemisphere being basked in light and the other shadowed in black, is a walnut. A black walnut (Juglans nigra L.). This is what they look like after removing the husk. What's a husk you say?
It's the green spongy outer layer that surrounds the shell. This is a small bucket that I picked up on our southern drive. We have a glorious row of these beautiful hardwood trees lining both lanes coming up to the house.
Problem is, they drop a lot of nuts. All over. They have no discretion, they plop down whenever and wherever they darn well please, kinda like my kids with their socks and shoes and books and toys and oh cripes, I have trees that act like my children, why does everything around me have to make a mess? Ya-know, this year it's okay, because nothing this land throws at me can deter my happiness of being in this little spot of Heaven. So, nuts!

What you see up in the photo is a box (I seem to have quite a few of those around lately, hmm) full of husks and not just husks, but also some other things, little white things....called maggots. Husk maggots to be exact. I know, it creeped me out a bit too, but after I shucked about fifty-seven of them the gagging started to subside. I shucked them all full of maggots. Clay thinks I'm saying something bad when I use the words, shuck and maggot. I think next time someone ticks me off I'm going to yell, "Hey! I shucked 'em all full of maggots!!" and see if I get a profound reaction.
The reaction might be the same as people are giving me with my stained fingers. Black walnuts will turn your skin the color of a tanning cream gone bad. Hey, if you think my fingers are dirty, you should see my kids' feet! That's what I plan on saying to the next cashier that tells me my hands are dirty.
What are my kids doing while I'm shucking maggot filled walnuts? Why, getting an education of course. Seth sat beside me and read aloud a little Kipling while holding one of our bazillion kittens on his lap and Levi, well I think he was digging in the dirt or climbing in the fort or swinging on the tire swing or chasing his tail, I don't know, he's still alive that's all that matters.
After I shucked and shucked and shucked then I washed the nuts under our hydrant. The brackish water contains the toxic chemical from the walnuts called juglone and it prevents many plants from growing or thriving and it will kill earthworms so I made sure I poured it back on our drive to save the worms.
It's very messy and brackish so of course my two little boys had to splash around in it.
Did I say it's wise to where rubber gloves? I learned that only after wearing my cloth garden gloves the first go around. I also learned it's hard for me to stand up after I've stayed in a bent over position washing walnuts for more than a few minutes. Oh, look! There's Levi, he's still alive and obviously preparing to stick his head in the bucket of water, which he did.
Freshly washed and maggot free walnuts.
I put them in another box, because you know I collect them, to dry in the sun. It should only take a few hours in the sun to dry and then several days or weeks to cure. But, of course it rained about twenty minutes after I set them in the sun, so now I have no clue how long to leave them out there and they will surely mold just like my children's notebooks and socks that I find left in the yard after a good rain or two.

But, at least I can say, "I shucked 'em full of maggots". Maybe I'll get to throw some in a batch of brownies then tell my kids they were full of maggots and I'll get all the brownies to myself.


Angie said...

I had no idea that there was so much work involve in harvesting walnuts! Oh my word! I would hope something that hard to get to would taste a little better than a walnut. :-)

Love the pictures. Your place does look like a little spot of heaven. Will you get lots of snow in winter?

iloveupstate.com said...

I have all the respect in the world for someone who can stomach maggots and do all this work.

Me? I'm going to the store and spending $3 on a bag.

jennifer said...

Didn't you just move? Don't you have unpacking and decorating to do? Seriously though, what would happen to the walnuts if you just allowed them to remain on the ground? Would it be a big clean up problem? Just curious.

Jessie said...

I would've been done after the first maggot. And what the heck do you do with those - eat them, just like regular walnuts? How are you sure you got the toxic stuff off?

Oh boy... I am not made for the country...obviously!

But it does look like you guys are having so much fun!

Kathy from NJ said...

Please taste one before you put it in the brownies and before you spend too much more time shucking them. We had a black walnut tree when I was growing up - it was a very messy tree and my mother always hated it. The tree guys took it down for free as long as they got to keep the wood, which I hope got turned into some furniture. I have spent the last two weeks picking up chestnuts at my brother-in-law's house. It is back-breaking work.

april said...

Jennifer, if I left them on the ground we would be mowing over them and they would turn into projectile missles and tear up the blade. I'm pretty much done unpacking, but yes lots of decorating to do, but I can't help playing outside.

Jessie, the toxic stuff is toxic to plants, it deprives nutrients from the soil so a lot of very common plants and trees will not grow where black walnut trees grow. The juglone from the seeds that you mix with water is not that concentrated, but apparently the worms are still at risk. Most walnuts will have husk maggots, they aid in the decomposition, so if you've eaten a walnut then it's probably had maggots....I know TMI and do I sound like an expert or what?

Kathy, I remember black walnuts being very strong. I read to only add a couple teaspoons to recipes calling for nuts, so your right I may not like them and then feel like a ding-dong for doing so much work.

Vonda said...

My grandfather had a black walnut tree in his front yard and I can remember as a kid helping him shuck them. We loved it of course because it did turn our hands black. In fact the blacker the better. Plus I got to use them as missiles and smack my brothers with a few. Nice sister I was.

Kathy from NJ said...

Although my brother-in-law has his chestnut trees sprayed every year there are still worm-eggs (shot borers?) inside the nuts. The trick is to cook them immediately before the worms have a chance to hatch. His son has already cooked more than 60 pounds, I've cooked 12 pounds. I have no idea what to do with so many chestnuts....
You may want to roast your walnuts as soon as you open them.

Anonymous said...

My mother used to make a black walnut cake that was delicious! If you think shucking was hard, wait until you start picking out the nut meats. But it's worth the work.

Anonymous said...

When we lived at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, there were many black walnut trees. Little did I know when we picked up bags full of the nuts, how much work it was to take off the green outer coat, then hammer through that black stuff to get to the small pieces of the walnut--they were definitely not like the English walnut. I didn't like the taste--never did that again. We also found out you needed to use those Playtex gloves. Throw those babies out. Yuck! Joanie

P~ said...

I Looove black walnuts! You're so lucky. I need to get a hold of my old neighbor with the black walnut tree, he doesn't like them. The last time I shucked em, I had placed them in a bag in the fall after harvesting, and left them in it until spring. The husks turned a really oily black color, but had separated from the shell on their own. It made the cleaning much easier, no shucking maggots to deal with! (your right that is fun to say!)
Great post April.