Each year I watch a nearby black walnut tree and note when the large green-hulled nuts begin littering the ground. Am I mistaken that this is usually an autumn event? Did I not find black walnuts as a child in September and October?
Why, after all, is Camden's Black Walnut Festival in late October otherwise?
For the past few weeks, each morning as I walked, I noticed immature nuts began littering the ground. I expect that ... the tree is aborting defective nuts, else the weather has had a hand in their lack of proper development. I take note of this, watch their multiplication, and step around them and continue on my way.
I notice a similar response in our oak. Once the blossoms set in the spring, I'll begin to see tiny immature acorns scattered across the driveway while their siblings develop clustered tightly to the branches. Summer is a time of abundance but it is also a time of tidiness. Those nuts which have no hope of proper development are thrown away like yesterday's trash.
I've carried these first two nuts home, hanging my cell phone on a belt clip. palming the camera in the other hand. I've found a section of newspaper in our recycle bin and spread it out on the work bench in the garage. The green nuts will dry there, turn a dark, blackish brown. When the colder weather comes, I'll carry them to the woodpile and mash the dried husk away with a hammer. If I wait long enough, till they dry, I do not have to wear gloves to protect my hands from the stain.
My vice, also on the work bench, serves to break the hard shells and I'll bring just a few inside each day as the year winds down. Mom will carefully pick the meat from each nut, gathering the shells in our compost pan. The next morning I'll dump the broken shells out in the garden while Mom adds the valuable black walnut meats to her container of nuts.
While I love the larger English walnuts for my applesauce-raisin cupcakes, I always add these home-grown black walnuts to the batter. It is a more biting , pungent taste, one that speaks of a past Ohio autumn in the depths of winter.
I love the black walnuts the more because they are freely given to us by nature. The work required to get at the nuts as well as the time involved is intrinsic in the beauty. The tree blossoms again as I nibble on a sweet muffin; the snow begins to fly outside Pinehaven's window as I remember today.