We have a huge, old black walnut tree in the yard. We also have two or three of its children in the ditch line over yonder. Black walnuts are lovely trees, but they can be messy. Some years this old tree is loaded with nuts and other years there are none. I don’t know what causes the bumper crops or the barren years. I do know that the bumper crops are a problem. The walnuts can carpet the ground, and let me tell you, they’re ankle breakers. There are folks who love black walnuts, and I’ve heard they even pay for them! I’m not a fan of the black walnut meats. I loathe them. My Gramma Herman loved them. At least I think she did. Or maybe she was just being her frugal self and didn’t want them to go to waste, so she put them in many of her baked goods. When I was a small, cookie loving child, I was often caught unaware, taking an offered cookie, and then having to eat it (manners) and the nasty black walnuts it contained. When I was little I was apparently a slow learner, because it seems I remember choking down dozens of black walnut laden goodies. As I got older I got pretty good at spotting the black walnuts so I was able to decline.
This is what black walnuts look like after they fall from the tree. To use the nuts, the dark hulls need to be removed and the nuts have to be dried and then cracked and picked. Black walnuts will stain everything they touch. I’m always amazed that there will be zillions of these things on the ground in the fall, but they sustain the squirrels over winter and will be gone or nearly gone by spring. We rarely rake them up, because the squirrels are so efficient at removing them for us.
One year we had more black walnuts on the ground than I have ever seen, and I didn’t think the squirrels would even be able to cart them all away, so I cooked up a plan. I invited the grandchildren to spend an afternoon picking them up, offering to pay them a penny a piece. My plan was flawed. The kids were thrilled to do the job, and excited to get paid, but the darn kids kept losing count, so they would guess and I ended up paying them very big dollars for their work. Next time we’ll pay them by the pound :)