Are you nuts about nuts?
I don’t do a lot of baking these days, but when a recipe calls for nuts, I usually use walnuts. Why? Because we have so many of them! We have a large, mature tree in our side year that keeps us busy gathering nuts from the ground in late October and early November.
They’re really hard to spot if the husks have broken off in the landing, because they blend in so well with the fallen leaves. And eventually every yard needs to be raked, right? So raking is both a means of mounding up the leaves and uncovering the walnuts.
Sometimes the husks aren’t broken away. Here’s one of each kind, side by side.
I step lightly onto the husks and twist my foot a little, and the husk breaks free. Wearing gloves while handling fresh walnuts is a good idea as walnut is a powerful stain!
Gathering walnuts is a family affair. The little granddaughters enjoy discovering them, but they weren’t around the day we raked up this batch. Our 7.5 year-old black Lab cross, Brody, is a big help, though. Or maybe not so much, as he eats them whole. Yes, he crunches through the husk, the hard shell, and all. The first time I realized what he was doing, I tried to stop him, but then I realized he must’ve been doing it for a while and it hadn’t hurt anything. Furthermore, there are so many walnuts we can spare a few for doggy treats!
Once inside, I wash the nuts to keep them from mildew and dry them in open baskets near the fireplace. Once in a while Jim and I sit, each with a big bowl on our laps, and spend time harvesting the sweet meat from inside the shells. A table knife inserted into the crack in the rounded end, then twisted, breaks all but the most stubborn shells in half.
It’s great having homegrown local nuts for use in baking! How about you? What type of nuts grow well where you live? Do you enjoy using them?