Notes from Windward: #69


Working with Walnuts


     Nut trees play an important role any temperate agro-forestry system, providing food crops rich in oil and protein. We have a local source of black walnuts, so we are moving forward aggressively in propagating walnuts for planting in our forest.

one year old walnut trees

     Walnuts, like many other temperate seeds, need to be stratified (a period of cold incubation) before they will germinate. Over last winter we stratified a batch of black walnuts in the fridge, and then planted them two to a single gallon pot. While this worked reasonably well, it was a fair amount of individual care for each seed even though half of them didn't germinate. We were very impressed when a neighbor gifted us a large tub that he had filled with black walnut seeds in the fall, and by the springtime the tub was overgrowing with walnut seedlings--allowing the time and effort to be devoted to only those seeds that had actually germinated.

walnuts laid out for stomping

     So this year, I chose to try the tub method again, and tossed newly gathered walnut seeds in with the seeds that didn't germinate this past spring and covered them with some hay to rest for the winter. I also planted a batch in raised beds we used to germinate chestnuts this past spring and covered them with chicken wire to hopefully deter any ambitious squirrels.

breaking down the husks by stomping on them

     Black walnuts are well known for their small but flavorful nut. It is the English walnut that is more commonly used for cooking and eating. Since we have a local source of Black walnuts that are abundant and easily germinated, and are lucky enough to have a local source for English walnut cuttings as well, I hope to experiment with grafting English walnut scion wood onto black walnut rootstock. Sources suggest that the best way to graft walnut is to use the bark inlay or the cleft graft, as opposed to the whip graft, the T-bud or the patch bud. This is best done during February and March. Since Black Walnuts are also a beautiful wood for woodworking, I hope to grow some for timber as well.

separating the nuts and hulls

     In addition to gathering walnuts for germinating, we have also been gathering some for eating. We spent part of one morning in mid October gathering English Walnuts that had fallen to the ground, we then had a stomping party where we removed the green/brown hulls that surrounds the nut shell. It is best then to wash the shells to remove any remaining juices which can soak into the nut and make it bitter. Finally, the nuts should be let to dry for about 2 weeks before shelled and eaten.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 69