An Overlooked Bounty

Reader Contribution by Jennifer Quinn
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Since my first September at Panther’s Hollow I’ve been collecting the chestnuts that fall from my two chestnut trees, and have enjoyed learning how to roast them and even make chestnut stuffing. I’ve occasionally noticed what I later realized were black walnuts on the slope behind my house, but never paid much attention to them. For one thing, I don’t often have a reason to go up there, and when I do I’m preoccupied with some task or other. Also, I haven’t usually seen more than a few, but this year they got my attention because there were so many. I realized from the spicy odor they were black walnuts, but I wasn’t sure if they were any good for eating, and I wondered how the green husks could be removed.

Shortly after noticing the bumper crop of walnuts, I was over at my neighbor’s house and saw she had a couple of buckets of them sitting there. So I asked her about them, and she said, “Oh yes!” They were better than English walnuts, she thought. She saves them in jars and uses them in cookies and such. I asked her how to remove the hulls, and she demonstrated by throwing some on the ground and stomping on them. But don’t wear your good shoes, she said, because they’ll stain.

So at the first opportunity, I gathered several bucketfuls, poured them out in the garden, and began smashing them. I found that a sledge hammer worked better for me than stomping them, but unfortunately I forgot to wear gloves. I didn’t want to go back for them, so now, five days later, my hands are still somewhat blackened with walnut stain. Apparently this is a familiar experience for folks around here, since two people quickly guessed what I’d been up to. One greeted me with the comment, “You look like you’ve been shucking walnuts!”

My neighbor said after shucking they need to dry out for a couple of months, and after leaving them in the garden for a couple of days there was rain in the forecast, so I gathered them in baskets and put them in front of the sunny windows in the garage. Now I’m looking forward to an abundance of walnuts for snacks this winter, as well as for the nut loaf I like to make for Christmas. Considering what they cost at the store, that’s a real luxury!

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