This year the black walnut trees have produced a bumper crop of nuts. They can be seen hanging from the trees, still attached to their branches and on the ground, ready to be gathered. If you notice them on the road side, look up.
They almost look like green apples. Black walnuts have an outer husk surrounding the nut inside. The size of the nut and husk are about 2 inches in diameter and round.
The husks need to be removed. Beware the juices in the husk will stain everything they touch, including your hands. I step on them while wearing old gardening boots to get at the shelled nut inside the husk. Use gloves to protect hands from staining. Once husks are removed, soak shelled nuts in a bucket of clean water, stirring occasionally. Drain and repeat. This step is best done outside, too, as the water will turn quite black. Discard any nuts that float, they could be bad or contain insects. Once water is mostly clear, the nuts will need to be cured by allowing them to dry and develop flavor. Spread them on a screen or open container, one layer deep, in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. An unheated garage is perfect for this. Leave to cure for two weeks before cracking one to see if the nutmeat inside will break crisply. If moisture level is too high inside shell, they will mold once stored.
Once cured, store unshelled nuts in a a well-ventilated space of 60 degrees F or less. Mesh bags or wire basket will keep them well aerated. Humidity should be around 70%. Nuts can also be shelled and the meats kept in the freezer until needed.
Black walnut (Juglans nigra), produces a toxin called juglone in its roots and leaves. It is toxic to a lot of other plants to keep them from growing around the black walnut tree. Nature has evolved this quality as a defense mechanism to reduce competition for the tree. Most other plants will be able to grow and take up the nutrients and water within reach of the black walnut tree. Tomatoes are especially sensitive to juglone. Best not to locate your vegetable garden within the root zone of black walnut.