Harvesting and Storing Hickory and Black Walnuts
Enjoy the best flavor and reduce nuts lost to squirrels by gathering them as soon as they drop from the tree. Some foragers gently shake the branches to dislodge and harvest mature nuts before the squirrels. Wear head protection as the falling nuts can inflict a bit of pain.
Remove the hulls, the fleshy covering, as soon as possible. Wear gloves to prevent staining of your hands.
Spread the nuts in a thin layer in a dry airy location. Allow them to cure for four to six weeks.
Crack the hard shells and remove the nutmeat. Consider investing in a nut cracker designed to handle black walnuts and other hard shelled nuts.
Separate the shells from the nutmeat. Then dry the nutmeat thoroughly and store in an airtight jar in the refrigerator.
A bit more information: Some gardeners look at processing the nuts as a hassle while others find it to be a great stress reliever. Some people cut away, others peel off the husk and some hammer away the fleshy covering. I have met gardeners that spread the nuts (hulls removed) on the driveway, cover them with a board and drive over them with their car. Seems a bit drastic and very messy. My father used a hammer and vice to crack his black walnuts at the end of a hard day at work. He was happier and we had plenty of black walnuts for baking.