If you are looking for a plant-based alternative to meats, walnuts may just be the answer.
The walnut tree, or Juglans regia, produces single-seeded spherical stone fruits. These fruits’ fat, protein, and fiber content make them a nutritious addition to any diet.
In fact, it contains numerous vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, B6, manganese, folic acid, phosphorus, and copper.
When to harvest walnuts? Fully grown walnut trees may reach heights of 100 feet (30 meters) and widths of 50 feet (15 meters). The fruits are harvested when they fall to the ground. Around this time, the outer green hull is starting to dry and split, making it easier to scoop out the walnut inside.
How Do You Know When Your Walnuts Are Ready to Harvest?
Have you decided to grow a walnut orchard? Perhaps you’re thinking of growing just one tree. Either way, you probably already know it will take a while.
Assuming you planted them in an area with full sun, walnut trees will mature and produce fruits faster than other fruit trees.
The good thing about them is that they are self-fertile, so even a single tree can produce fruits without the help of another.
Here’s what to expect when growing them for the first time:
1. Allow the trees time to grow.
A walnut tree sapling can take anywhere between five and seven years before it becomes mature enough to produce fruits.
Throughout this time, you will need to care for the growing tree to ensure it stays healthy.
You will know it has reached full maturity when the tree is about 80 feet (English walnut) or 100 to 120 feet (Black walnut).
English walnut trees are grown not only for their nuts but also for their wood. They have a long lifespan of up to 150 years.
2. Observe the fruits.
Once the tree starts bearing fruit, it will need 20 to 21 weeks exposed to a temperature range between 27 to 29 Fahrenheit to flourish.
And that’s just for the earliest maturing cultivars; others can take longer before they become fully ripe.
You should be able to begin the harvest when roughly 85% percent of the fruits are already ripe.
3. Check the nut inside.
Obviously, the easiest way to know if the fruits are ready and the nuts inside are ripe is when you can scoop the nut easily.
The green outer hull of the fruit will turn brown and crack, similar to how it looks when flowers bloom.
If it has fallen to the ground and the hull is still green, pick it up right away to guarantee that the nutmeat remains fresh.
When freshly ripened and ready to be harvested, you’d be able to easily dent the walnuts with your thumb.
When doing this, it’s also a good idea to wear gloves because the hull contains substances that can irritate sensitive skin.
4. Know the seasons.
Walnuts will begin falling off of the tree around the mid-end of September, but some are ready to harvest around fall.
To check if everything’s right on time, crack a few before harvesting everything.
In most areas, the harvest season will last until November, when temperatures start to go down rapidly.
Learn how to practice patience. Rushing the process won’t do you, nor your walnuts, any good.
What Happens if You Don’t Harvest Walnuts?
For roughly 30 to 40 years after walnut trees start bearing fruit, you will be able to enjoy a harvest every year.
Eating these nuts is popular among many cultures, probably because it is believed to boost brain function and lower the risk of heart diseases.
They are rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fats, as well as incredibly delicious, too!
In line with that, will these nutrients remain if you don’t harvest the walnuts on time? If not, what will happen?
They will lose their nutritional value.
Not harvesting walnuts on time will result in darker-colored kernels with less and less nutritional value as time goes by.
As much as possible, take the time to harvest them all so that all your time and hard work do not go to waste.
They will develop mold.
Walnuts are already matured and ready to harvest if it is dried and hulled. If not picked immediately, they can develop mold.
Don’t let walnuts sit on the ground for an extended period, too. Instead, peel the outer green hull as soon as possible.
They become a health problem.
When the walnut hulls start to rot, a deadly mold can spread through them, endangering people, animals, and even pets like dogs and cats who accidentally eat them.
This is why it is important to pick up fallen walnuts, especially if you have pets or animals in your property.
How To Harvest Walnuts?
Unlike other fruit trees, walnuts are simple to harvest despite having a lengthy growth period. They aren’t as delicate and will survive a fall to the ground.
The hulls of perfectly ripe walnuts will gradually soften over time, making it easier to access the nutmeat inside.
You can leave them alone for a few days if the shell still feels too firm and challenging to remove.
To harvest walnuts properly, you’ll only need to learn these four easy steps:
Step 1: Check for ripeness.
With your thumb, press on the hull slightly to see if it dents; if it does, then they are ready for harvest.
The perfect time to start picking is from September through November, but when exactly? To determine whether it’s time for picking, check if the fruits are already ripe.
Fully mature walnuts will fall off the tree on their own.
Step 2: Gather the walnuts on the ground.
Before proceeding, remember to wear gloves before harvesting the walnuts.
Walnuts contain tannins that will leave stains on your hands for days, and you may struggle to take them off.
When you’re ready, start gathering the walnuts lying on the ground and put them in any available bags or baskets. You may also want to check if it is mottled or not.
Step 3: Shake the tree.
As you can imagine, it’s not easy nor safe to harvest walnuts directly from the tree, especially if it’s your first time.
In fact, even experienced growers would rather pick up the ones that have fallen to the ground. To do this, you can shake the branches using a pole.
Step 4: Remove the husks.
Now comes the fun part! To remove the husks, you can use an old pair of shoes you no longer use.
While wearing the shoes, roll each walnut beneath your foot so that the husk comes off easier. Repeat this step with each of the remaining walnuts.
Sometimes, you might notice worms from husk flies. Fortunately, they almost never harm the nuts inside because the hard shell provides enough protection.
To enjoy the best flavor and quality, remove the hulls until two weeks after harvesting.
Should You Wash Walnuts After Harvesting?
If you are planning to eat them immediately, wash your freshly harvested and husked walnuts after picking them.
Rinsing with clean water will help get rid of pests and debris that could be lurking somewhere.
To do this, grab a bucket of water and put the hulled nuts in. Next, allow the nuts to dry in a mesh bag for approximately five weeks.
Make sure you hang the bag up in a dry, well-ventilated place away from the sun and the rain.
After drying, put the nutmeat in the freezer or refrigerator.
Once the nuts are removed from their shells, let the flesh dry for a couple of days before storing it in an airtight container.
Can You Eat Walnuts Immediately After Harvesting?
You can eat freshly harvested walnuts, but they won’t taste nearly as good as the ones you buy at the local store. To enjoy them at their best, wait and allow them to dry for about five weeks.
If you’re keeping them in the freezer, label the jars or Ziploc bags with the date. The nuts will remain fresh in your freezer and last for at least two years.
After drying it, you may use the nuts immediately after cracking them. Eating them raw is good, but a roasted walnut is heavenly!
That said, it is also safe to practice caution. Walnuts can trigger allergy responses in those allergic to them.
How To Crack a Walnut?
Walnuts are not only delicious but also healthy. It promotes a healthy gut, helps decrease inflammation, is rich in antioxidants, and supports weight control.
The problem is that it has a thick and tough shell that’s not easy to break.
What if you don’t have a nutcracker in handy? How can you crack a walnut then?
With bare hands
With your bare hands, place two walnuts on your palm parallel to each other. Make a fist and squeeze them firmly so that they push against one another.
If you hesitate to use your bare hands, there is an alternative way. You can crack a walnut open with a knife.
With a knife
Hold the walnut in your non-dominant hand, making sure the plus-shaped seam on top is facing you.
Then, insert the tip of the blade into the seam and twist the knife as you would when opening a door with a key.
With a hammer
Don’t have the strength to use a knife? Using a hammer may make your life easier.
Before proceeding, spend a few hours soaking some walnuts in boiling water. The hard outer shell will soften as a result.
Next, place the walnut on a flat surface with the pointed end facing upward. Gently pound on it with your hammer; the shell should crack open at the seams.
Walnut trees take their sweet time to mature and start producing fruits. When they do, you will have to wait several more weeks for the nuts to ripen.
Good thing, harvesting walnuts is no doubt worth the wait because it’s tasty, nutritious, and fun to eat and share with friends.
They are also easy to incorporate into any diet, especially since you can eat them as they are or combine them with various dishes.