Thursday, August 9, 2012

Facts On Black Walnuts

Facts on Black Walnuts

Black walnut, a Native American tree, has provided resources to Americans from before the first European settlers arrived. Native Americans were the first to value its distinctive fruit and later Americans harvested its hardy wood. Today black walnuts still provide a valuable harvest and the tree's wood is still used in a variety of products. Even the shell of the walnut finds use in some industrial abrasives.


The black walnut finds its origins in the eastern United States as a native grown tree. Growing to a height of 70 to 100 feet, with deep roots, this deciduous tree produces nuts of 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter. The tree is typically found in the northeast, west to Nebraska and south to Texas and northern Florida (see References). Because the black walnut is known for its extremely durable wood, it is a used for a wide variety of purposes. In past decades, several regions experienced over-harvesting of the black walnut for its wood to such an extent that it almost became extinct.


Black walnut fruit appears in the summer and ripens by early fall. The green-yellow hulls fall to the ground when ripe and cover a hard, black interior shell. You can dent a fully ripened black walnut hull with your fingernail (see References). They should be gathered immediately upon falling to the ground then hulled. The green-yellow hull begins to leak juice shortly after falling to the ground. The juice taints the nuts and stains anything it touches. Crack the extremely strong hull of black walnuts with a hammer, nutcracker or by stomping on them with your foot. To ease cracking, soak the nuts in water for a couple of hours before attempting to crack them. Always use gloves when working with black walnuts because they contain a dye that can stain your hands.

Native Americans

Native Americans valued the black walnut and used it for a variety of everyday tasks. The Apache in particular found the black walnut very useful (see References). They ate the nuts in a variety of ways either alone or stirred into different dishes. They also mashed the nuts and stirred them with juice to create a drink. The dark brown to black dye contained in the husks was used by older males attempting to cover gray hair.

Medicinal Use

Native Americans knew of the black walnut's medicinal usefulness and squeezed the juice from the outer green husks after hulling the ripened walnuts. The juice served as an antiseptic ointment and a parasite preventative for both humans and animals. In addition, a tonic extracted from the bark of the tree provided relief from inflammations of the body (see References).


Black walnuts, like most nuts, provide an exceptionally healthy dose of good fats. They contain omega 3 fatty acids in abundance. Black walnuts also provide a healthy source of proteins. Store hulled nuts in the freezer to preserve them. The oils in the nuts will spoil over time and taint the nuts if not stored correctly. Because of their distinct, strong flavor, black walnuts are most often used to create nut extracts and walnut ice cream.

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