|Butternut tree in late September. The nuts |
have been falling for about 2 weeks
Despite this ailment, out tree does produce quite a few nuts. This is supported by the large number of seedlings within a hundred feet of the parent. Normally there are just a few nuts on the ground, but this year there are hundreds of them. I had been told that the squirrels would swoop in and carry them away, but so far I haven't seen many of them. Rather than just tripping over these nuts on the lawn I decided to give harvesting them a shot.
Butternuts fresh off the tree are covered with a bright green, sticky husk. As they age the husk shrinks and becomes darker. The best nuts for harvesting those that have fallen recently. One site recommended only using nuts freshly shaken off the tree. My tree is pretty firm and its limbed up quite high, so I just opted for the greenest ones off the ground.
|Butternuts are oblong, kind of like a football or rugby ball. Walnuts are nearly round.|
|This butternut has been on the ground for a few days. |
The husk is stuck more tightly to the shell.
I didn't harvest any of these dark nuts. There is a greater probability that they may be starting to rot and they are definitely harder to peel. You can check nut quality ahead of time by putting them in a bucket of water. Those that sink are good, but floaters have voids in them and should be discarded.
|Here a relatively fresh, green nut ready for peeling/dehusking.|
|Here's the first cut through the husk. |
The green husk is about 3/16" thick and juicy.
|The freshly exposed shell is light brown, |
but it darkens quickly when exposed.
|Here's a freshly peeled nut with all the pieces of the green husk.|
|After 3 minutes the moist interior of the husks had turned black. |
This stain can be difficult to remove from surfaces and clothing.
The next step will to take the nuts out of their shells. One site says to soak them in warm water for a day before cracking the shells. I did a quick deshelling test with my 3# steel mallet. A few taps broke the shell nicely. The nut meat had a greenish cast and tasted a little raw, but there was a richness to it that I hope will dominate when the curing process is complete.
Once shelled the nutmeats can be stored in the refrigerator for a few few months, or longer in the freezer. I'm not sure how best to use the nuts: raw, boiled or roasted, all three? I should have a verdict on this process in a couple of weeks. Being a newbee at this I would really appreciate any comments from more experienced gatherers out there.