There’s a lot of gleaning and harvesting to be done in late fall. If you have nut trees on your property or if there are nut trees nearby that someone will give you access to you can harvest a bountiful store of tasty nuts. Here are some tips to know when to harvest and how to store them.
Most nuts are picked up off the ground rather than plucked from the tree. The fact that nature has released them from the tree means they are almost mature. Most nuts take a few weeks of drying out in the husk to make good eating for humans, although animals will snatch them up much sooner. Don’t harvest more than you need as nuts are an important late fall food source for many animals. A little device that you roll over the ground to pick up golf balls is great to pick up larger nuts and will save you from a sore back.
Walnuts, Black or English, are nearly ready when the husk turns black. Collect the nuts and store in a warm dry place for about a month. Remove the husks using gloves as they stain the hands. Crack open the nut shell and check the nut meat. Ripe meats are firm and white. Some people put the walnuts on a driveway and run over them with a car to remove the hulls and crack the shells. This will stain the driveway. Others have used old washers that have a bucket of sand put in them with the nuts. Agitating will then remove the husks. Never do this with your good washer!
Pecan and hickory nuts are nearly ripe when the outer husk turns brown and splits. Gather the nuts and spread them in a thin layer in a warm dry place for about 2 weeks. Make sure that the nuts are protected from hungry animals. After 2 weeks, peel off the husk and crack the nut shell. Remove the meat from the shell. If the nut meat snaps easily the nut is ripe and dry enough to store. Pecan and Hickory nuts can be stored in the shell or the meats can be removed and stored in dry clean containers.
Almonds are seldom grown by homeowners, but they are ripe when the husk splits open and reveals the nut shell. Crack a shell and see if the nut meat snaps easily. If not let the nuts dry longer.
Nuts are expensive when you buy them at stores. Harvesting your own will allow you to use them in a number of ways without worrying about the cost. The labor involved in husking and cracking nuts is well rewarded. You can store nuts in their outer husk for a long period of time in a cool, dry, dark place. Make sure animals can’t get to them or your stash may disappear. Or you can crack the nut shells after a few weeks of drying time and extract the nut meats for storage. You can do the cracking and nut picking on those cold and snowy early winter nights as a family project.
After you have your nuts ready to eat store them properly. Nuts will stay fresh tasting longer if refrigerated or frozen. Use food grade plastic containers or glass jars to store nut meats. Make sure containers are closed tightly as the nuts will pick up flavors of things stored near them.
Nuts are healthy foods, providing healthy fats, proteins and a few healthy carbs. People who eat nuts everyday are said to live longer than those that don’t. Just remember that nuts are also calorie dense and pick appropriate portion sizes.
Here are some additional articles you may want to read.
How to collect and store common garden seeds.
Maple tree make you happy and healthier.
Seeds and fruits that could kill you
You can read the authors weekly garden blog here.