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. Tonight, I brought my daughters there after dinner to play on the jungle gym.
November 2017, I harvested walnuts from this park. Unfortunately, after a ton of work, we learned they were rancid and past their prime. But now it is mid-September, with walnuts just starting to ripen! So after stuffing ourselves with gourmet, stone-oven pizza at Minnehaha Country Club, we did what Glean For Good is best at- collected free food from the neighboring Sherman Park!
Squirrels scampered from branch to branch, confirming these walnuts were ripe. We saw evidence on the ground of empty walnut shells too.
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.
Last year’s biggest mistake was not heeding warnings of how deeply the past-ripe Black Walnuts stain your hands. This year I knew to leave the dark ones alone and collect the greenest of fruit.
Last year I crushed walnuts in a vice. This year, I’m running them over in a car. No, I’m not kidding. The vice thing was a good idea but took too long and too much 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.
Last year, I was dismayed at the incredible amount of work for such a small yield. In fact, I swore I wouldn’t harvest walnuts again (nor roll my eyes at how expensive they were)! But there is promise that a fresher walnut and some smarter strategies will make for a better experience this year.
I’m eager to hear how you glean, forage and harvest fall foods. Please post and share on Gleanforgood.net! Oh, and let me know if you’re headed to Sherman Park. I’d love to join you!