I know that I said that I would wait until next year to start harvesting other people’s food that is just going to waste in their garden, but after weeks of walking past walnuts on the sidewalks I just couldn’t resist anymore. Walnut trees are everywhere, and free walnuts are there for the taking, no permission needed. I found my two favourite trees: one that is bountiful and one that makes really big walnuts. Both trees are on my way to work, so I just pick up walnuts going to and coming back from work. (And yes, those are hazelnuts also in the bag: while a much easier nut, they are usually in people’s yards and harder to harvest without permission.)
Now, walnuts are not the easiest free food. They come in a green husk that must be removed in order to free the nut. I usually try to pick walnut with little to no husk on them, because 1) the husk is very difficult to remove and 2) it will stain everything a yellowish brown. Once the nuts are gathered, they have to be cleaned (to avoid mold), and this means wearing rubber gloves (the husk will even turn the water back) and scrubbing the nuts with a steel wool or a knife to remove what was left of the husk. At first I just left the walnuts to dry in a thin layer, but discovered that this was also creating mold. So after the nuts look dry, I dry them again in the oven at 200 F for 10 minutes. The walnuts are then placed in a container, where they need to cure for at least one month. Only then can the nuts be stored, roasted or eaten.
Drying the nuts in the oven though can crack the shells open, which I learned the hard way while trying to figure out the right drying time. I harvested the flesh of the cracked nuts, and now have well over 1/2 pound of walnuts in the freezer, ready to go. As for the rest of the nuts (and there are quite a few, I went overboard with my harvesting!), they are curing in my office.
Walnuts may not be easy work, but they are well worth the effort. Hurray for free, tasty proteins and omegas!