We used to collect and dry walnuts when I was a kid in Oregon. The streets were littered with their blackening husks every fall. My mom would leave our harvest of raw nuts on the hearth, while me and my siblings tried to be patient until they were ready eat. As soon as my mom said the word, we’d crack ‘em and eat ‘em next to the fire. [Man, this is making my childhood sound idyllic!]
There is a bounty of free walnuts to be collected here in New York too, but they’re a different variety from those in Oregon - the exotic Black Walnut. They’re smaller and the shells are thicker and really friggin’ hard. You pretty much have to totally shatter the nut in order to pick out the pieces of flesh. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it. The black walnut has an intense, rather tannic flavor. It’s surprising that it also a sweet aroma, reminiscent of maple syrup or the smell of a baking cake. I’m struggling to describe the black walnut here – it’s rather distinctive. I decided to try some of the nuts I harvested to make “gnocchi with brown butter sage and toasted black walnut sauce”. I feel like a real gourmand!
To see the full photo album, go to: frankie harvesting black walnuts on facebook