Sunday, October 23, 2011

Juglone.. leaf me alone! and Black walnut harvest

 Fall clean up and the endless bounty of leaves is making for nonstop raking. Two of the properties seem to be in the leaf collecting vortex burying the houses in a 3 foot drift. The small house in town we are able to shred and compost those leaves as they are mainly elm, maple, mulberry and oak. 

 The larger farm is more of a challenge as those are black walnut. The juglone in the black walnut materials does break down with proper composting. It has to be completely broken down.. so the smaller the particles, the faster it can compost. Leaves break down the most quickly. Several weeks (2 months roughly) for hot composting, roughly 6 months+ if buried to give a rough timeline. The smaller the bits, the faster. You can test the compost on a tomato seedling.. if it isn't finished the seedling will die.

 The nuts have mostly all dropped. Not as big of a year as previous, but still a lot to clean up. Every few years the bigger farm has a particularly bountiful black walnut crop that buries almost the whole driveway in several inches. The husks have sort of a lemon smell and shortly they oxidize, turn black and start decomposing releasing the walnut inside. Critters galore just love the driveway as the tires dehusk the walnuts revealing a favorite wildlife food. Rain coming down mixes with the husks and creates a coffee colored deluge with an amazing ability to stain what it splashes.

 I have about 3 garbage bags full of black walnuts I have to husk today. Black clothes and rubber gloves needed to tackle these. After removing the husks, the nuts will get a quick wash, the on to racks and in mesh bags to cure for a couple of weeks. Black walnuts, unlike English walnuts, have 4 chambers and an extremely hard shell. They take a lot of work to process but offer a prized flavor in return. Longer storage of the shelled nuts is best in the freezer.

 Black walnuts are one of those prime foraging finds. The tree offers not only a nut crop in the fall, but can be tapped for sap to make syrup in the spring. 

 Black walnuts nutritional data if you are interested in what these treats have to offer.

 I would have collected more if I could, but this pile alone is a lot of work in what limited time I have. The bigger farm had to be rented out again for hunting season.. which means I can't do anything on it until next summer.  If you listen carefully... you can hear the sound of me banging my head against the wall.


1 comment:

  1. Is that what the banging sound was!

    I lived in southern WI and we had black walnuts galore. I remember people would pick them up and put them in boxes at the end of their driveway with a free sign. I always that that was funny since everyone in town was up to their ears in walnuts.