How To Harvest English Walnuts

English Walnuts
English Walnuts. Franck Bichon/StockFood Creative/Getty Images

English walnuts are typically harvested late August through September, and make a great addition to the frugal pantry (It's hard to argue with free food). So, grab some buckets, and unleash your inner squirrel on a tree near you.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: Depends on the size of the harvest. Set aside at least an hour.

What You Need:

  • Gloves
  • Buckets
  • A garden hose
  • A nut cracker (for shelling nuts)

What You Do:

  1. Check for ripeness.
    Wait until nuts with split husks begin to appear on the ground in number. Then, break open a few sample nuts to check for ripeness. English walnuts are ready for harvest when the tissue between the kernel and the shell turns brown.

  1. Gather the walnuts.
    Once ready, you can harvest the nuts one of two ways: either gather them off of the ground as they fall, or shake the tree to dislodge them. The second option will certainly give you a leg up on the squirrels and bugs, who will be just as eager to claim the nuts. If you decide to go the tree-shaking route, spread an old blanket or sheet out under the tree first, so the nuts will be easy to find.

  2. Remove the husks.
    Pull the husks off to reveal the shelled nuts. (The husks should come off easily, if you're collecting the nuts at the right time.) Be sure to wear gloves for this step. The walnut tannins will stain your hands otherwise. Note: ​If the husks are black and difficult to remove, that's the work of walnut husks flies, who lay their eggs inside the husks. They don't harm the nuts, but they sure make removing the husks quite  difficult.

  3. Rinse.
    Rinse the shells off with a high-powered hose to remove the tannins. Don't do this on a concrete driveway or another surface that you're worried about staining. Then, allow the shells to dry.

  1. Inspect the quality.
    Inspect the walnuts for cracked shells, and discard any that show signs of damage.

  2. Dry the nuts.
    Lay the nuts out on screen or rack, somewhere warm and dry, and allow them to air dry for two weeks.

  3. Test for dryness.
    Remove several nuts from their shell, and try to break them in half. If they break cleanly, the nuts are dry and ready to eat.

    Tips:

    1. For maximum freshness, always store walnuts in an air-tight container.
    2. English walnuts will keep in the shell for several months. Store in a cool, dry to keep them from going rancid prematurely.
    3. Shelled nuts can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 6 months, and in the freezer for well over a year. Learn more about how to store nuts.
    4. Invest in a good nut cracker. It'll save you a ton of work. I recommend the Texan York Nut Sheller. It works well, and is sturdy enough to stand up to lots of use. Buy a Texan York Nut Sheller on Amazon
    5. Interested in harvesting black walnuts? Here's how to go about doing that. And here's how to harvest chestnuts.