Ripening Guide

Learn more about the many fruits of Toronto's Urban Orchard

Black Walnut

Black walnuts are commonly found all over the USA and southern Canada. Black walnuts have two uses: the hull can be used to make ink, and the nut can be roasted and used in all sorts of baked goods as well as in salads.

Black walnuts are round green fruits that are equivalent to the size of a small apple –  about 3 inches in length and diameter. The outer skin is rough and smells citrus-like when cut open. When they are mature, the outer skin turns from green to brown

  • September
  • October

How to tell when black walnuts are ready to harvest: When the husk is brown, is cracked, gives in to pressure, or peels away easily from the nut inside. Walnuts that are still green on the outside are okay to pick, but require more work to get to the nut meat. Crack open a few nuts to see if the husk peels away easily from the nut but be careful as the ink inside stains very quickly and is hard to get rid of.

When to submit a pick request: We’ll need some advance notice to schedule your pick, so please submit a pick request 3-5 days before your fruit is ready. A good indicator of when the walnuts are ready is when the husks have turned brown.

Picking tips: Pick by hand or with fruit picking poles and wear gloves and clothing you do not mind being stained! You can also shake the branches and let the walnuts fall onto a tarp below – they won’t bruise very easily so they can handle the drop. Be careful not to shake the branches too hard as this can damage the crop for next year.

Processing tips: Black walnuts need to be peeled away from the husk as soon as they are harvested. If left for too long the nut quality deteriorates and can grow mould. Peel away the outer husk with a pocket knife in a work area you are okay with getting stained and use a tarp if necessary. For green walnuts, where it is difficult to separate the husk from the nut, wet them and let sit for a day or two before peeling. Wash the nuts and lay them in a flat area that is well ventilated, cool, dark, and dry where they can cure for 3-5 days. You’ll know they’re ready when the nut is brittle and cracks open easily.

Storage tips: Once the nuts are cured they will remain good for up to a year if stored in a dark, dry, and cool place. If the nuts become wet they can go rancid within a couple days.

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