How to Harvest Walnuts In 2 Easy Steps

Are you a nuts lover that can’t pass an opportunity to add walnuts to salads and shakes or have them baked in oatmeal cookies? We hear you! Walnuts are fantastic and have tons of health benefits. The reason why today we’ll be sharing with you everything you need to know about how to harvest walnuts.

Walnuts are single-seed fruit that provides healthful fats, protein, copper, manganese, and other essential nutrients. They also have a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids. So, if you have the chance to access a black walnut tree, you might as well give harvesting a try.

Though it may seem a little intimidating initially, you have nothing to worry about. Harvesting is a fairly simple process. However, there are essential steps you ought to master first; with the right tools, you can be confident you’ll know how to harvest walnuts like a pro.

How to Harvest Walnuts

  1. You can harvest the nuts in one of two ways: either gather them off the ground where they fell or (if you’re able) shake the tree to dislodge them. The second option will give you the edge over the squirrels and bugs, who will also be eager to claim the nuts. If you decide to go the tree-shaking route, first spread out an old blanket or sheet under the tree to make your job of nut collecting easier.
  2. Then, gather all the black walnuts lying on the ground and place them in bags or baskets to haul them home for processing.

How do you prepare walnuts from the tree?

To start harvesting walnuts, you will need a pole combined with a hook for larger trees. Shake the nuts loose using the pole. Immediately pick the walnuts up from the ground. If they lie there too long, they will either begin to mold or become overrun with ants or both.

When should walnuts be picked?

The right time to harvest walnut is in the fall, normally from mid-September to early November. The harvest begins when the nuts have matured and a high percentage of nuts on the tree have split hulls. Usually, a small number of nuts have already started to fall to the ground naturally.

How do you harvest walnuts by hand?

The nuts are removed from the tree using a mechanical shaker, which grasps the trunk and shakes the whole tree. The nuts drop to the ground, are swept into windrows, and picked up with harvest machinery. This operation is completed quickly to reduce the time nuts remain on the ground.

How are walnuts processed?

Harvested nuts are taken to a huller that removes the green hulls from the shell with wet scrubbers and dried in gas dryers for 24 hours or less (until the nuts reach 8% moisture content). When dry, the nuts are ready for storage or processing. Processors typically buy walnuts in-shell and then crack, grade, and package them for marketing.

Are there worms in walnuts?

If you find that the husks are black and difficult to remove, that’s the work of walnut husks flies, which lay their eggs inside the husks. Don’t panic. Husks flies don’t harm the nuts, but they definitely make removing the husks quite difficult.

How do you rinse walnuts?

Rinse the shells off with a high-powered hose to remove all of the tannins. Don’t rinse on a concrete driveway or another surface that you’re worried about staining because the tannins will likely stain the ground as they are removed.

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How do you dry walnuts off the tree?

Spread nuts on screen bottom trays to dry walnuts in-shell for good circulation. The optimal drying temperature is 95-100 degrees for 3-4 days; the good idea is to set the screened trays on cinder blocks and air-drying walnuts outdoors. Walnuts are adequately dry when kernels are brittle.

How do you preserve nuts?

Shelled nuts keep up to two years in the freezer. Salt-brining and dehydrating preserves shelled nuts. Store preserved nuts in air-tight containers at room temperature.

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How to crack walnuts?

To crack your walnuts, place them on the ground, point end up, and hit them with a hammer until they crack.
Alternatively, you can place them in a vise-grip and tighten them until they give. Then, carefully pick out the nut pieces. Walnut shells are very hard, so this process takes time.
If you really want whole nuts, soak the walnuts for a couple of hours before cracking them. The nuts will absorb a small amount of water and be less likely to break.

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How to remove the husk?

  1. Once you’ve gathered your black walnuts, it’s time to remove the husks. Be sure to wear gloves for this step because the walnut tannins will stain your hands.
  2. Hulls soften naturally over time, allowing easy access to the nut. If the hull feels firm and is difficult to remove, set the nut aside for a few days. The best way to de-hull a small number of walnuts is by hand, with a chisel and hammer to knock the hull away. Rinse de-hulled nuts with a powerful hose or pressure washer to remove debris.
  3. If you have many walnuts to do, you can also lay them out on the driveway and drive your car over them several times to remove all of their husks at once.
  4. With the husks removed, you’re now left with just the walnuts in their shells and all the black gunk that’s attached to them.
  5. Place the nuts in a bucket, and spray them off with a hose to remove as much of the gunk as possible.
  6. Give the black walnuts two to three weeks to dry and cure before you store or crack them. This will ensure that you don’t lose your harvest to mold.

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Additional Tips on How to Harvest Walnuts

  • For maximum freshness, always store walnuts in an air-tight container.
  • English walnuts will keep in the shell for several months, and black walnuts will keep for about a year if stored properly. Store them in a cool, dry spot to keep them from rancid prematurely.
  • Shelled nuts can be kept in the refrigerator for up to six months and in the freezer for over a year.
  • If you encounter worms when removing hulls, rest assured they do not affect the nut.
  • Toss all of the husks in the trash when you’re done. You may be tempted to throw them on your compost pile, but don’t do it; the husks contain a chemical called juglone which inhibits plant growth.

If you liked harvesting walnuts, you’d love harvesting pecans and almonds!

How To Harvest Walnuts Tutorial Video

Photo of author
Joe Farmer, The harvesting guy is all about fresh produce and enjoying the harvest all year round. He's got tips and tricks for backyard harvesting and is always up for sharing his love of homegrown food. When he's not in the garden, you can find him out on the hiking trail or cooking up something delicious in the kitchen.
Photo of author
Joe Farmer, The harvesting guy is all about fresh produce and enjoying the harvest all year round. He's got tips and tricks for backyard harvesting and is always up for sharing his love of homegrown food. When he's not in the garden, you can find him out on the hiking trail or cooking up something delicious in the kitchen.