Edible Quality of Wild Black Walnut

There are several mature wild black walnut trees on our property. This is first year that I picked some nuts today. We have at least two varieties. One produces smaller nuts, but early. Another produces larger nuts, but just dropped all nuts recently.

The larger nut is more than 1" diameter. Taste is fine.

But it is really hard to crack the nuts. I used hand hammer since I do not any machine. The hand nut cracker can’t crack the nuts since they are too hard. It is very hard to take out the nut meat from inside.

So I just do not know if it is worth the trouble to wash them and take more efforts to crack them. I do not mind the work. But I do like to get something to eat from all the work.


With black walnuts they recommend going around the pulp with a shoe. Fruit is supposed to be harder to get out as you said. People report that you can run over it with a car and it will be unaffected. Not the best quality of nuts too. There are varieties that may be hardy to the lower zones like ambassador walnut.

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As long as you have great land for black walnuts, I recommend you try one of the thinner shelled, meatier selected varieties. I planted one for a customer a long time ago and was surprised how quickly it began producing nuts and they are so much better than the wild ones around here that I bet even the squirrels finish all of them before going after the wild ones.

Around here, black walnuts tend to thrive where it is too wet for many other species.


See the thread near the top on evaluating black walnut seedlings for some relevant pictures. Most wild trees make small difficult to crack nuts. Named varieties are much better in terms of production, crackability, flavor, and other important traits.

Thomas, Neel #1, and Farrington are my personal favorites though I have about 30 odd varieties grafted.


Yes, this is something I’m afraid. I can collect probably a wheelbarrow or more of those nuts. But it is just ton of work to clean. And crack if I can…

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Foraging for food can be quite time consuming. I’ve picked up about 8
buckets (5 gallon) of nuts…and near half that after removing the outer husk.

Good year for most fruits, including juglans nigra.

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I’ve got several wild black walnuts on my property. Probably had a wheel barrow load or two of nuts in the yard. They are almost impossible to Crack and have very little meat. Fist year that I noticed PC went after the early crop. Not sure if that is normal.

Wonder what you are going to do with the nuts? I can collect many more. But…

One of my clients has 5 or 6 loads from one tree. Another looking for someone to give nuts too.
So, yeah, not hard to fill a wheelbarrow this year!

They get tossed into the wood line, or get kicked with the lawn mower to wherever they land. Just a pain if you step on a rotting one it’s an easy way to slip! I’m guessing the squirrels probably stash a lot of them.

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I know on our property, we get a lot of black walnut, black cherry and some kind of hickory trees. Also various kind of brambles. I’ve been working to clear my 1 AC wooded area. Still a lot work to do.

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when i was deer hunting my cousins property in M.O 5 yrs ago. black walnuts were everywhere. there was multiple advertisements on local radio that said they would shell your b. walnuts for you for a fee. it must be popular as i heard that advertisement at least 20 times the week i was there.


Hammons Products is located in Missouri the best I recall. They purchase black walnuts, husk, dry, and shell them. They are a large commercial operation selling to confection and ice cream makers. Hammons has a market for the nuts and the shells. Turns out that black walnut shells can be used for sand blasting, oil drilling, charcoal for gas masks, some cosmetic products, and quite a few other things.

The last I heard, there was an effort to grow and harvest black walnut commercially in Iowa and Nebraska. I have not followed up on it in about 5 years. Billy Hanson was working to establish a commercial cracking operation in Iowa. Stan Matzke (deceased) planted about 50 acres of trees in Southeastern Nebraska. I watched him harvest walnuts in the fall of 2009. He had a tractor mounted harvester that was very effective picking up the nuts.

Black walnuts can be grown as a commercial business across a broad swath of the Eastern and Midwestern U.S. I know of about 20 farmer level operations and am sure there are more. John Brittain was selling trees to a few who were planting 100 acres of more.


I am curious about the variations in taste. ( I read the other posts about the seedling genetics)
A few years ago, a friend gave a bucketful from their yard since I needed to make a new batch of ink.
Since I was already shucking them, I spread the nuts out and let them cure for a month+ and then cracked them and collected the meats.
We did not like the taste at all! Almost a gasoline edge to them. Blech! ( the friend was happy to take the sample cake off my hands so I took it that they all just taste like that)
From what I’ve read, it does seem like they may have been pretty typical but I do wonder if the named types are better.

The fresh nut does not have some smell. I’m not sure if the smell goes away when the nut is dry.

The kerosene smell is a side effect of leaving the nuts in the hull too long. Black walnuts should be harvested when the hull is still green, promptly hulled, washed, and dried. If properly handled, they have a rich walnut flavor sans the kerosene.


My mom and I used to gather several tubs of nuts. We finally bought a hand cranked, small corn sheller off Amazon. Works fairly well for the husk, then we put them in a cement mixer with water to tumble off the black fibers. Then lay them out to dry well, if they stay damp they may mold. Then let them dry for several months more, the meat will shrink slightly making it a little easier to dig out with a nut pick. I crack a bowl full at a time then take them inside to dig out while I watch TV. I think they crack a little easier also when they are dryer.


Speaking from experience, no doubt. :woman_farmer:

I’ve been going to town on the local black walnuts. Not wheelbarrows full, for sure, but I’d say I have over a thousand done so far. My goal is to fill at least one onion sack full, and this is the year I’ll finally spring for a specialized nut cracker. I’ve also improved my system a lot. I had been stepping on them to remove the green hulls, but now I’ve got a board with a couple large holes and I smash them through with a mallet. When you factor in the time to pick through the walnuts after you step on them, it’s about as fast and way easier on my joints. I also picked up a paint mixer for my drill and stir the walnuts with that for a few minutes. Gets them way cleaner in less time and with less water (and fewer changes of water) than swirling them around. The other big help was pouring out the cleaned nuts into a milk crate to strain them. Much faster and more thorough than just using my hand to keep them from falling out of the bucket. This system is just about perfect for me, as I’m getting the nuts about 100-200 at a time. Larger quantities would probably benefit from a different system of hulling.

I personally think that it’s well worth the effort. They’re one of my favorite nuts, with a unique flavor you don’t find anywhere else. The trick is getting a system down where you don’t spend forever on the hulling, and getting a cracker that lets you get the meats out relatively easily. I’ll have to see if the nutcracker I pick lives up to the hype on that last front…


I’m a big fan of Black Walnuts, and black Walnut wood. Walnuts and the wood, have a toxic element. The wood does not rot. The green husks were reported to be used by native Americans to stun fish for netting.

That said, they are a pain to crack open. I still have a 5 year old box and they are still good. I dump the pile on the ground and give them a stomp. Let then set for a few days. Then just roll your boot over them and the husk is gone. Let them dry.

To crack them, I set a concrete block on end and use a hammer to get them in half. Start a bunch like this. Them come back and more gently crack the pc. Use a number 6 or 8 nail to dig out the meats.

Or go to Sam’ Club and by shelled black walnuts for $10/lb, so cheep. Keep in freezer