(photo Lorie Sheffer: Black Walnut husk)
Now that my own two kids are adults, my grandson is in high school (YIKES!) and my father’s health has greatly improved, I finally have time to do what I want. This has not been an option for me since I was 19 years old. Judging from conversations with my friends, this search for adventure is not an uncommon occurrence when we hit midlife.
One of my most recent interests happened by accident while walking the dog. About a month ago I started to slide on walnuts that were starting to drop from the trees. They fall in their husks, and look a bit like greenish ping-pong or if you’re lucky, tennis balls. The husk needs to be removed and the nut cleaned and dried for a period of time to cure the nut inside. Black walnuts are tough nuts to crack; no pun intended, they would break a regular nutcracker. These devils have to be placed on concrete or a rock and pounded with a hammer, or cracked in a vice. But oh, are they worth the effort.
My original intent was to collect enough, approximately a cup and a half of shelled nuts, to bake one of my grandma’s black walnut cakes for Thanksgiving dessert. Presently, I have a milk crate waiting to be hulled and several mesh sacks hanging in the garage to cure. What can I say? Word got out and now people are expecting them from me, the only person brave (gullible?) enough to very literally get their hands dirty. As in stained for weeks on end. What I wonder is why the squirrels who compete with me in my harvest don’t have broken teeth and horribly stained fur.
The bottom line is this: When we have careers to focus on and kids to raise and parents to care for and chores to do and there seems to be no light at the end of the To-Do tunnel, we may find it a bargain to pay $13.00 a pound for these little treats, IF we can find them. When our days are our own, we STILL may rather pay for something that we can get for free, considering the effort involved. All I can say is, there is something relaxing and satisfying and somehow restorative about getting in touch with nature.