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The Best Time to Pick Black Walnuts

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The Best Time to Pick Black Walnuts

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Overview

Black walnuts grow on trees throughout the Midwest. These nuts, known for their dark shells, are easy to harvest but can be tough to crack. You'll want to make sure you have a nutcracker specifically designed to handle black walnuts before harvesting them. Wearing gloves while handling the nuts is also very important. The dark substance on the shell can stain the skin, as well as any clothes it comes into contact with.

Season

Black walnuts are usually ready to harvest in the fall. Depending on where you live, this can be anytime from September through November. It's usually easy to tell when the nuts are ripe because they will start falling from the tree.

Appearance

Maturing black walnuts will change in appearance as they grow nearer to harvest time. The round, smooth hull will start out a bright shade of green. As the nut ripens, the hull will take on a yellowish hue with black splotches. The nut is ready to harvest when you can dent the hull with your thumb.

Harvesting

Another clue that the nuts are ready to harvest is when they begin to drop to the ground. It is fine to collect these nuts, as long as you do so as soon as possible. You can also pick ripened black walnuts directly from the tree.

Testing

Make sure to pick and test several nuts before harvesting the whole batch. Sometimes black walnuts that appear to be ripe need a bit more time. To test the nuts, crack open three or four to make sure the kernels are full and mature. If they are shrunken, you may want to wait a few more days and test a new batch. Waiting may not help; sometimes, trees just have a bad year and fail to produce good nuts.

Processing

Process the ripe nuts immediately after you pick them. Dye from the hulls can seep into the harvested black walnuts, rendering them discolored and bitter.

Keywords: harvesting black walnuts, picking black walnuts, black walnut season

About this Author

Katie Leigh is a freelance writer and editor based in Chicago. A Loyola University New Orleans graduate with a Bachelor's degree in communications, Leigh has worked as a copy editor, page designer and reporter for several daily newspapers and specialty publications since 2005.