Black Walnuts Ready to Harvest

Sherman Park, located just south of the Great Plains Zoo, and north of Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls, SD, has dozens of mature walnut trees. I brought my daughters there after-school to play with their cousins and enjoy the foliage. Little did I know, there were pounds and pounds of food to harvest!

My sister-in-law, Trina, pointed out the walnut fruit on the ground. She had a Black Walnut tree in her backyard once but never did try to harvest them. We tried to investigate online if these really were walnuts and safe to eat. Meanwhile, the squirrels confirmed to us the easily recognizable walnut hidden inside two thick layers.

We raced past the squirrels to our cars, emptied what bags we could find, and hunched down to fill them with the fluffy fruit. In only ten minutes, we had all we could carry, hardly making a dent in the clutter on the ground.

dsc_0096My biggest mistake was not heeding warnings of how deeply Black Walnuts stain your hands. I searched for my rubber gloves, but to no avail. Pinterest surely will have the magic solution to scrub my hands clean. After removing the soft outer fruit, I laid the remaining nuts in the food dehydrator, set the temperature to 100 degrees and let them sit for a week.

The following day I returned to work as a Family Physician, finding no help from vinegar, nail polish remover, lemon juice or Lava soap “experts” suggested. Over the subsequent week and a half I denied suspicions I moonlight at Valvoline or painted my hands with permanent marker.  Surprisingly, my patients did offer more suggestions: baking soda, toothpaste… Trust me. This stuff never comes off.


Next, we crushed walnuts in a vice. Oh hey look!  I found my gloves! A bucket was placed below to catch the debris. This took some serious effort. I am smiling with a jacket on here. By the 100th nut I was down to a t-shirt, angrily shooing away animals.



And as if that work wasn’t hard enough, there was even more hand cracking and picking out meat that followed inside the house.


My youngest daughter and I used nutcrackers and blunt tools to finish the project. She thought this must be just like working as a dentist.

“This is.” – My response to Muriel when she asked what tedious meant.

Collecting the last of the walnuts, I realized this took an incredible amount of work for such a small yield. It is hard to imagine ever balking at the cost of nuts. I also imagine being more stingy when adding them to my baking.  I’m not sure I’d do this again but would love to hear if you had an experience harvesting walnuts too!

I’m eager to hear how you glean, forage and harvest fall foods. Please post and share on!

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