Having a black walnut tree is a blessing and a curse for many homeowners. While tasting the delicious fruit of the black walnut is well worth the process, collecting and harvesting black walnuts is definitely a labor of love. If your yard is starting to become full of dropped walnuts then you'll need to get outside and collect them. To gather black walnuts, however, isn't as easy as just going out and picking them up.
Watch your walnut tree to notice when the husk of the walnuts start to turn color from green to more of a yellowish-green color. The walnuts should begin to fall from the tree as they ripen, so plan to collect walnuts weekly for up to six weeks.
Wear gloves and bring your bucket with you as you walk below the tree and look for the unmistakable almost baseball-size walnut husks. Look for and pick up walnuts which have the husk intact--not cracked open--to ensure you aren't harvesting a walnut full of maggots.
Check whole, intact walnuts for ripeness by pressing your finger into the husk. A ripe walnut will allow an indentation where you pressed, while one which isn't quite ready will be hard.
Make sure the walnuts you collect have the green husks all around with few blemishes. Blemished walnuts may be collected if they haven't started to turn brown or ooze out dye-like juices. Often a walnut can look fine, but the underside may reveal a rotting, tender husk.
Pour out the gathered black walnuts onto a tarp or other old plastic and peel the husks off the shells without splattering juice. Discard the removed husks into the trash and place the walnuts back into your bucket.
Fill the bucket with water and jostle it around a bit. Any remaining pieces of husk will float as well as any unfit walnuts. Remove anything floating on the surface and discard.
Dump and refill the bucket multiple times to rinse the walnuts free of the stain until the water runs clear. Spread the walnuts out in a cool, dry area away from sunlight for two to four weeks to cure before cracking open.