Are you familiar with Craigslist? Looking forward to furnishing a new apartment, I’ve re-addicted myself to this site where you can find almost anything for sale in your area. Right now, my interests are in furniture for sale, but the “free stuff” page also calls me.
A few weeks ago, I took up an offer for free walnuts. My parents decided it would be something fun to do together, even if we weren’t saving money (cost of gasoline to get to the location). When we arrived at the address, we weren’t sure if it was the right place…Where were the trees? What does a walnut look like? What kind of walnuts? The lady that I emailed had said that it wasn’t necessary to knock on the door. Just go ahead and take as many nuts as you wanted. So we parked and, plastic bags in-hand, timidly walked past the house toward the back of the yard. As we started to gather black and greenish fruits from the ground, a lady came out of the house. She assured us that we could take as much as we wanted: “they are such a nuisance”. We thanked her, than continued our task. In the end, my bag was full of dark nuts. My parents had chosen the ones that still had the soft green covering.
The internet helped again, when I looked for information on the next steps in our walnut expedition. My dad thought that they were probably not English walnuts (the ones you buy around the Christmas holiday). Sure enough, the blogs and videos identified our harvest as black walnuts. Natural herbicides. Fatal to horse and possibly dog, but fine for human consumption.
We needed to clean the green fruit off, before placing the nuts in mesh bags to cure for two weeks. Rubber gloves were essential to ensure that my hands would not be stained. If I had been resourceful, I could have saved the dirty water for a walnut stain. Even after discarding about 2 plastic grocery bags full because they had worms crawling about, I still had more than a potato sack full to work with. They stayed on the back porch for two weeks; occasionally, I shook them to discourage mold growth.
Yesterday, I drew a hammer out of the tool drawer in my mom’s kitchen and headed out doors. The birds and the neighbor’s dog were excited by the noise of me pounding away at the walnut shells. Some bounced like rubber, while others split willingly. Mom joined me about half-way through. She said she felt like Super Woman at times, swinging the hammer. When we got through the initial pounding, we headed indoors to pick out the nutmeats (still not an easy task).
The harvest shrunk down to a few cups of usable nuts, but… the flavor is different. Walnuts weren’t at the top of my list to begin with. Organic black walnuts aren’t any better; there’s something chemical or medicinal to our harvest’s flavor.
So? What to do? Set them out for lazy squirrels? Well, if nothing else, I learned patience, and not to go nuts over free stuff until you’ve done a bit of research.