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Walnut harvest

 
David Livingston
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Well here at La Ravardiére . Its Walnut time nerly. I have never had a Walnut tree to harvest from before so I am not clear of the best procedure .
Unfortunetly the local squrrel population is and have started already
I have cut the grass short underneath my one mature tree to make it easier to see the nuts that fall plus make it easy to the local hawks to see the squrrels . Score so far Hawks 1 at least .
But should I pick the nuts off the tree ?
Wait until they fall ?
Shake the trees ?Also when should I start to eat them . Here in France they say you should wait until after christmas .
When would be the best time to make oil ? While they are fresh ? or when dryer ?

David
 
Michael Cox
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I too would like to know how to do this. A nearby walnut tree is very heavily laden this year and I have a chance to gather a decent amount of nuts. I think this is a wild English Walnut, nut a grafted cultivated one. There are quite a few walnut trees around but they all seem to be seedlings spread by squirrels.
 
Cj Sloane
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Me too but I'm interested in acorn harvesting. I've just got one oak producing ATM & I'm trying to beat my own turkeys to the harvest.
 
David Livingston
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Pity we could not train squirrels

David
 
Ludger Merkens
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To my knowledge (asked my father for this) walnuts are best harvested like follows:
  • let them ripe on the tree, until they fall off
  • collect daily
  • dont try to bash the tree with a stick, you could damage nuts and tree
  • remove any hulls you might find on the nuts, but wear gloves to avoid the stain
  • if you find nuts with caterpillars, collect them separately and get rid of them
  • if you have moldy nuts, don't eat them and get rid of them
  • the good nuts should be dried carefully (room temperature with air movement)
  • store cool, dark and dry


  • -- Ludger
     
    David Livingston
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    Thanks Ludger
    I think I will collect twice daily as the squrrels seem to be collecting all thetime

    David
     
    Burra Maluca
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    I think Carol Deppe had a bit about collecting walnuts in her Resilient Gardener book. I'll see if I can dig it out and see what it says.
     
    Michael Cox
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    Burra - I think she had a bit about Pecans from memory. Locals didn't collect them because they had a reputation for being bitter. She spoke to an elderly neighbour who told her they only went bitter if they were left in contact with the ground. Discarding fallen nuts and only collecting the freshly dropped ones daily seemed to help. Not sure about then husking our wild walnuts... the husk seems to bind very tightly to the nut, and the nuts are smaller than bought walnuts. Time for some top grafting?

    On our walnut tree at home we basically never see a walnut on the ground. The squirrels steal them off the tree and bury them all over the place. Collecting them from beneath the tree doesn't seem viable, but I'll give it a go. Mowing the grass short sounds like a good start!
     
    Cj Sloane
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    Ludger Merkens wrote:
  • if you find nuts with caterpillars, collect them separately and get rid of them
  • if you have moldy nuts, don't eat them and get rid of them


  • Worth giving these to the chickens?
     
    Michael Cox
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    Smash them up a bit with a mallet first and they will probably eat both the caterpillar and the nut
     
    Jd Gonzalez
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    allen lumley
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    I just want to share again a thought that Potentially at this time you are harvesting Two crops ! 1) The walnut meats 2) the husk over the outside of the nutshell
    that is very rich in dark dye stuffs and Juglones. I personally have used a pulp made from the soaked husk placed in a Zip lock Bag over the stump of must
    other types of trees and wired into place This has been mostly to completely effective in killing of trees that wanted to re-grow as a coppiced tree.

    This also works well with the other heavy Juglone producing trees like butternuts ! For the Good of the Crafts ! Big AL
     
    Frank Brentwood
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    To go along with what Big Al said: If you have any local artisan types that do textile stuff like spinning, weaving, knitting/crocheting, you may have a small demand for walnut husks as a source of natural dye.

    As far as harvesting walnuts, I have no advice. With 3 Black Walnut trees, I've gathered perhaps one 5-gallon bucket worth of edible nuts over the past few years. The squirrels here strip the trees bare before the nuts are even ready for harvest. I don't mind sharing, but watching those furry buggers take a single bite from an unripe husk before throwing the nut to the ground and repeating the process until there are no nuts left on the tree is simply infuriating. It makes me think some very un-permie thoughts. :/
     
    Michael Cox
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    Frank - nothing wrong with a wild harvest of squirrel... I have a nice cage trap and an air rifle.
     
    Bill Bradbury
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    Black Walnut is also a vermicide. To make the tincture, find the perfect green ones that have recently fallen. They should not have any dark spots, if they do throw them in a 5 gallon bucket for soaking. Then cover the fresh green husks in hi-test grain alcohol and cover tightly so no air can get in. Let steep for 2-3 weeks, strain and refrigerate, once again allow no air in. The tincture is most effective if it doesn't oxidize and retains it's green color, but if it turns black, it is still quite effective.
    Soak the other nuts in water until the hulls soften, remove and soak again. You should have pretty clean nuts within the week. Wear big HD rubber gloves or be tattooed. Let the nuts dry and they are ready to eat.
    We also have a California Walnut tree, we just pick those up, peel the husk if it still has it, crack 'em open and enjoy.
     
    Michael Cox
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    I just took a good look at the wild walnut near us. The nuts are about 1/3rd the length of the standard bought ones and the hulls seem very firm at the moment. Already plenty of evidence of squirrels eating them and damaging husks. They definitely don't look easy to process.
     
    Sean Banks
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    For the American Black Walnuts what you do is you gather them up into a pile and drive over them a few times...this pops the nut out out of the husk...then you put the nuts in a mesh bag and hang them up to dry for 2 weeks....after that you hit each nut with a hammer and place the pieces in a bowl....get yourself a pair of wire cutters and remove nut meats....then you can use them right away or freeze them for later.
     
    Nathan Funke
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    If you have a dag, it might be worth staking him out by the tree.
     
    Frank Brentwood
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    Michael Cox wrote:Frank - nothing wrong with a wild harvest of squirrel... I have a nice cage trap and an air rifle.


    Ah, Michael, I agree completely.

    Unfortunately, I live in a place of conflicting/overlapping regulations. The NY State DEC says that it is legal to take Grey Squirrels in "any manner" if they are damaging property but the County says it is illegal to fire any weapon (Shotgun, rifle or handgun, air-rifle, bow, or slingshot) within 500 feet of any dwelling (including my own), and the Town says it is illegal to use any traps other than those for mouse/rat unless you are a State licensed trapper.

    So, as long as I don't use a trap or anything that actually shoots a projectile, I am allowed to "take" a destructive animal in "any manner". YAY, GOVERNMENT!

    I guess I'll dust off my trusty Bowie knife and camouflage clothes and start hunting squirrel caveman-style. Yeah, probably not
     
    David Livingston
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    Well so far I am quite pleased with the harvest as we are getting about 30 walnuts a day at the moment from the one tree I am concentrating my efforts on . The other daughter trees that have smaller nuts are left undisturbed and the squirrels are concentrating there efforts on these . I do believe that making my best tree more open and prospectively more dangerous keeps the buggers away.
    I am also going to try to graft the other trees in time .

    David
     
    David Livingston
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    Frank
    Why not use rat traps . Squirrels are just rats with better agent and a furry tail .

    David
     
    David Livingston
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    Well the harvest is just about over I think I must have got about a stone or more of nuts .
    From one tree .
    As for how much the squirrels got I dont know but I do think my plan with the short grass made a difference . The only other issue was I discovered yesterday we also have Wild Boar as I came across ten of them not far from the tree not sure if they ate some as well.
    Here is the tree itsnot thatold and I think I can look forward to harvests increacing in time

    David
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    Stefan James
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    I think you guys have called out everything well, thanks for the discussion! If it is at all helpful, here is what I've been doing and my observations:

    - find black walnut trees I have been incredibly lucky here. My neighbor has one, there is one down the street and several on paths at work, in my experience if you look for them you will have no shortage!
    - get the hulls off This is the messy part, if you have any reason to wish your hands to appear clean then be careful! The dye will soak through leather and even rubber (maybe defective?) gloves if you have any extended exposure. The ways I did this: 1) use a knife to cut the hull in half or quarters and pull it off the nut; 2) use my foot/shoe to squash/roll the walnut until the hull comes off. I actually prefer 2 at this point, it is somewhat cleaner and you can carry a lot more nuts in a given container without the hulls. I do not worry about any worms I find, as far as i've seen they only eat the hull, not the nut. If the nut has a whole, then I’d get rid of it.
    - wash the nuts nothing fancy here, just try to get most of the 'juice' and bits off by soaking/spraying/draining
    - dry the nuts There is certainly an opportunity to be more efficient here but i have been putting them in a shallow pan in the oven, let it heat to 350 and shut off, just letting it cool down in there
    - cure the nuts I'm mostly in this stage now, I batch all my nuts in an old onion sack (any 'airy' container would work) next to an air filter so they get plenty of air flow to dry.
    - crack the nuts This is the hard part! Some folks use hammers, I have done mine with a vise with the most success. In either case I'd recommend wrapping the nut in some sort of rag first to keep everything together. Then picking out the nutmeats take some work, wire cutters seem to be the best tool to cut them out but it’s not impossible.

    Other thoughts: the problem is the solution! I've been thinking about ways to use the dye- maybe press the walnuts in an apple press or something and bottle the juice to use as a stain or dye? Second the pulpy leftover mess ought to still be scary for other plants so maybe it could be used to suppress plants where you don't want them (i have a rocky drain area i try to keep clear although there may be better solutions).

    Anyway hope that helps, thanks.
     
    Michael Cox
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    I had some luck collecting nuts from a local wild English Walnut.

    I picked a few off the tree in their husks, but on the ground beneath the tree were lots that had dropped naturally free of their husks. If I had had more time I probably could have filled a couple of carrier bags. We didn't clean them. I just laid them out in the warm/dry air of our flat and they seem to have cured a bit - they already feel less damp and have a bit of a snap to them.

    Is it normal to be able to collect them free of the husks, or have I just got lucky with this tree? The squirrels have definitely been taking and eating lots, but I'm still finding a few.
     
    Stefan James
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    I am so jealous of the English walnuts! Of course you must think I'm crazy talking about a hammer and vise but the black walnuts have much thicker shells!

    I do find black walnuts with no hulls fairly often, I think it is more common if they are someplace lots of people walk on a relatively hard surface (like a path) and/or if it has rained a lot.
     
    David Livingston
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    I would think about half of mine were just in the shell others were very easy to remove the husk very little staining .
    Yesterday ten nuts and am off to have a look for todays crop when I finish my tea .

    David
     
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