It’s time to check on all those nut trees and see what’s ready to harvest! Colder weather means fall is definitely hear and time to get the nuts before the squirrels do. Here are a few types of nuts to look for out in the woods and what to do with them once you find them. Happy Harvesting!
Harvest walnuts when they fall on the ground in Autumn. You’ll be able to identify a walnut tree by its compound leaves, though they generally fall off before the leaves of most other trees. Once you’ve collected all your walnuts, peel off the outer husk of the ripe ones. You’ll want to wear gloves when doing this, unless you want your hands to be stained black! Ripe walnuts are black and show an indentation on the husk when you press on it with your thumb. It usually takes around 4 to 6 weeks for the husk to turn from green to black.
The husk has to be taken off before walnuts can be stored. If you leave the husk on, the kernels inside the hard shell will turn dark and taste very bitter. Walnuts without their thick husks can be stored in a well-ventilated area of 60 degrees or cooler. Cloth bags or wire baskets are best for storage, since both allow good air circulation and this prevents mold.
If you’d rather store walnuts without their shells, moisten the walnuts so they won’t shatter to bits. Soak the nuts in hot water for 24 hours, drain, and soak them for 2 more hours in hot water. Place a wet cloth or towel over the walnuts while they are waiting to be shelled. Shelled walnuts can be refrigerated for 9 months, frozen for 2 years, or stored at room temperature. You’ll want to bake them for 10 to 15 minutes at 215 degrees and allow them to cool, before storing them in an air-tight container at room temperature. You don’t have to bake them if you’re just going to freeze or refrigerate them.
When you start to notice hazelnuts falling to the ground, (generally around October), then it’s usually time to start picking the rest off of the tree. Be sure to check the fallen nuts to see if they are ripe. They may have fallen prematurely and you don’t want to pick the rest of the nuts if they aren’t ready yet. You’ll know they are ripe by their hazel brown color. If you choose to eat the nuts a bit green, don’t eat too many, unless you like to spend a lot of time in the bathroom. You’ll need to dry the hazelnuts thoroughly before storing.
To dry the nuts, spread a layer or two of unshelled hazelnuts on a baking screen. The best temperature for drying hazelnuts is between 90 and 105 degrees. You can use a heat lamp, if you don’t have a gas oven with a pilot light constantly going. The drying time ranges between 2 to 4 weeks. You can test the nuts after a couple of weeks to see if they are dry. Pick one up and give it a good shake. If the hazelnut is nice and dry, it’ll rattle around inside the shell. You can also crack one open and see how dry the kernel is inside. Store dried hazelnuts for a year in the fridge or 2 years in a deep freeze.
Like most nuts, as soon as they begin to fall, pecans are ready to be harvested. The longer they lay on the ground, the more moisture they’ll gather, so pick them up right away. Spread out some sheets of newspaper to allow any damp pecans to dry. You can tell when they are good and dry by the rattle you hear when you shake them. Dry pecans in the shell can be stored at room temperature for many months. However, it’s best to store them in the freezer or fridge. For the freezer, store them in zip-lock bags or air-tight containers and they’ll last more than a year.
Enjoy your Harvest all Winter
Having lots of fresh nuts on hand will enable you to bake all sorts of delicious goodies this winter. I always enjoy using foods I’ve gathered myself, instead of relying on the grocery store. It’s especially nice when the weather turns bad and I can’t even make it out of the driveway, due to large amounts of snow, or ice, or downed trees. Thank you Mother Nature!
What types of nuts do you like to harvest during the fall?