One of the most amazing plants I have met this year is the wonderful walnut tree. There is a giant of a creature right in my back yard, and to my delight this last Autumn, it showered me with the means to enjoy food, medicine, stains, tinctures, hair dye, and so much more! I woke up every morning and gathered them up in cloth nets, in a territory bid with the local wildlife. The hulls and nuts themselves are incredibly hard, and although I looked carefully, I saw no tiny tools, and I still don’t know quite how other creatures manage to extract the sweet meat, but apparently they have secrets.
I moved to SW Missouri last September, with a Zombie Emergency Response Team sticker in my window, and dreams of an Ozark adventure and a house in the Countryside. That didn’t exactly happen, (yet) but I was lucky enough to meet a colorful, seasoned local, at a bookstore, who was happy to share his wisdom of the land with me, including the many uses of the local trees and other medicinal and edible plants.
I discovered that the large green balls that were the vexation of many Missourians in the suburbs could be gathered up and put to good use. It’s another one of those pesky and contentious points of perspective, those who curse them as a seasonal nuisance, and those who run around like crazy walnut squirrel people, gathering them from parks and the front yards of strangers. The actual nut is inside of the shell, which is inside of the green part, which is the hull. These are things I did not know.
The American walnut tree, or Juglans nigra, the American Black Walnut tree is found from Southern Ontario to South Dakota to Georgia, Northern Florida, and Southwest Texas. The most black walnut tees are to be found in Missouri, (over 59 million of them!).
Black walnut is an important tree commercially, as the wood is a deep brown color and easily worked. Walnut seeds (nuts) are cultivated for their distinctive and desirable taste. Walnut trees are grown both for lumber and food, and many cultivars have been developed for improved quality wood or nuts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juglans
What are Walnuts Good For?
I learned that the green hulls could be made into a tincture by washing them, carefully splitting, and packing into a sterile mason jar with vodka or other grain alcohol. Shake it up every once in a while, and after at least 30 days, strain the liquid into dropper bottles. Take 15-20 drops 3x’s a day for a variety of conditions.
The hulls are used to help with many conditions, as they contain high tannin and juglone content and are thought to oxygenate the blood and kill parasites. Black walnut is known as an effective anti-viral and is used to remove warts, which are caused by viruses. Black walnut is an anti-fungal, and anti-viral, and often used historically for many parasitic issues and stomach ailments. The bark is a gentle laxative, and the leaves have an astringent effect that could probably translate into an acne care regime, or deodorant base.
The meat of the black walnut contains the highest amount of protein of any tree nut. They are a good source of manganese, omega 3’s, a wide array of vitamins and anti oxidants-making it a super food that is not hard to acquire, or to prepare. Walnuts lend a delicious taste to just about anything, from cookies, to sauces, syrup, salads, and just too many choices to list them all! Get creative in the kitchen with your own nuts.
The active ingredients which are the most controversially discussed and debated are the naturally occurring tannins and juglone, found in the hull. Although I have seen a few websites stating that it could be dangerous, I cannot find any evidence to support that. Horses and dogs cannot tolerate it, but I see no evidence that it isn’t safe for humans, in moderation. Modern Pharmacology it seems, is often hellbent on dissuading people from natural medicines that have been used successfully for thousands of years. It is my opinion that both philosophies have a place on the shelf, and could benefit one another, with proper respect and education.
How do you remove the Hull?
The hulls are a lot of fun to remove. I have seen videos of people running them over in cars, using gigantic drills in a bucket, having family driveway boot stomps, and science types, with sharp, expensive knives, carefully carving off only the most pristine greeness for use.
I chose to stomp off the hulls of the ones I set aside to eat, and use a clean indoor hammer and chisel for the very nice green ones to be used as tincture and dye. The same clean tools seem to work best to also remove the meat from the inner shell. Once clean and dried, they can be stored in temperate conditions all year. When the kids get bored in the winter, give them a hammer and a bag of walnuts, they’ll be entertained all afternoon. (Maybe.)
or, be an old guy, and run them over with your golf cart https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnOIF8M6lWQ.
I liken them to cleaning and eating blue crab. It’s not easy, but well worth it, and although they are slightly high in calories, after the gathering, sorting, de hulling, cleaning and cracking, I think it’s an even trade.
Please use your nuts responsibly.
to Naked Fairy Apothecary Robin Horn
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