The flavor of the black walnut is rich and almost smoky. It is considered a delicacy in many breads and cookies. However, finding black walnut meat can be difficult because most stores do not carry it. If you have one or more black walnut trees growing in your yard or otherwise available to you, consider yourself fortunate and make certain that you begin harvesting your crop before the local squirrels get all of it.
Monitor your trees carefully in late summer or early fall, watching for the round green nuts to turn yellowish. If the hulls can be dented with your thumb, the nuts are ripe. As the nuts turn yellow, hit them with a long pole until they fall to the ground. Use a ladder to reach nuts high in the tree, or pull them off the tree with a gloved hand if they can be reached. Wear gloves when collecting black walnuts. Place the walnuts in a plastic bag or a sack as you collect them.
Remove the yellowish husks within a day or two after picking as the oils in the husk can discolor and change the taste of the nut meat. Cover a work surface with newspapers or cardboard. Crush the yellow husks that cover the black walnut between your thumb and fingers to break it and rub it off of the nut. Wear gloves when doing this as the oils that are in the husks can stain your hands and work surfaces badly. Discard the husks immediately.
Crack hulls that have dried and are black by tapping them with a hammer until they shatter and can be peeled off. Nuts with black hulls are usually found on the ground, having dropped off the tree earlier. Wear safety glasses when tapping dried hulls.
Place the hulled nuts in a secured area where they are safe from squirrels, rats, mice and other rodents, and let the nuts dry for 14 days.
Store your hulled and dried black walnuts either in the shell or shelled. If storing in the shell find a cool, dry place that is free of rodents. If storing the shelled nut meat, place the meats in a plastic baggie, seal and keep in the refrigerator. Nuts and nut meats will sore for at least one year.