It’s black walnut time in Iowa. I’m reminded of this on my morning walks.
A couple of times this week, I’ve narrowly avoided being plunked on the head as walnuts rain to the ground around me. Meanwhile, squirrels are busily gathering up whatever they can handle, gnawing on them in the canopy above or finding good hiding places on the woodlands floor for later retrieval.
I admire their initiative, but wonder about their methods. Every year I find buried nuts in my compost heap, my yard, my garden. Either the squirrels are simply forgetful or I just beat them to the punch. Family history is a bit like that. We tuck things away for another day then forget about them. Sometimes we rediscover them with delight; sometimes others beat us to the punch. Who knows what happens to them then.
Black walnuts hold a special place in my family history. My cabinet-making grandfather was fond of working with walnut. I have three pieces of furniture he made from walnut reclaimed from old barns and fences in Southwest Iowa.
One of my favorite Christmas cookies includes black walnuts. It is from my mother who shelled her own black walnuts. If you haven’t tried it, it’s an arduous task. Many people harvest the nuts as they fall, wait for the green outer shell to turn black and brittle, load them into a gunny sack, drive over the sack to separate the husk from the inner shell, then begin the shelling process.
We used hammers and old flatirons to crack the tough shell before picking out the nut meat. Even commercially purchased black walnut meat may contain bits of the shell, so be forewarned. Black walnuts also stain things, especially hands. It’s tough, dirty work that I personally believe is better suited to squirrels with extraordinarily sharp teeth.
See the newspaper article above? With a headline like that, you’d think I would be bursting with pride. Actually, it’s a good-natured scam. Go to fodey.com and you can create your own newspaper article. Just for fun, of course.