Harvesting Local Walnuts with Sr. Anita

Black walnut trees grow all over Omaha. You can identify them with their black bark and round, green nut fruit. The black walnut has a globose nut (meaning it is roughly globular or round), while the nuts on the butternut tree are more egg-shaped and smaller. The nuts are known to taste earthy, musty, and strong, so it is recommended to use them in a recipe rather than eat them on their own.

“When we lived on the farm I know we had walnut trees, but I never gathered and cleaned them until I was older,” Sr. Anita Rolenc remembers. “My mom used walnuts in our baked goods, so she must have picked them, cleaned them, and dried them all on her own while we were at school!”

In September and early October the first step will be gathering and peeling the walnuts.

Gather the green nuts or the black nuts that have already shed their green shell. Peel the nut and leave the hard nut inside to dry out over the next several weeks. Sr. Anita recommends 12 weeks minimum. She just leaves them in her garage until after the holidays.

*Wearing gardening gloves prevents you from staining your fingers black and brown.

*Never mind if there are small worms inside. They are just feasting on the peel that you are going to toss aside anyway. Anita says that if you leave a few on the outer nuts, they will just dry out too, and not to be bothered.

After 12 weeks have passed and the walnuts are dry, they are ready to crack open. Use a hammer like Sr. Anita. Take out the inner nuts and store them in jars. Extra jars of walnuts can be placed in the freezer to prevent them from getting rancid. Use these walnuts in any recipe that calls for nuts! Sr. Anita’s favorite recipes that include black walnuts are listed below.

*Because of the deep flavor of black walnuts, use less than the recipe calls for. As an example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of chopped nuts, maybe use 2/3 cup.


Oatmeal-raisin Cookies

Zucchini Cookies

Banana Oatmeal Cookies

Quick Mix Cookies

Crispy Oatmeal Cookies

Rocky Road Cookies

Recipe from Loretta Masur

North Dakota Cowboy Cookies

Recipe from Marilyn Haerr


Hot Fudge cake

Nutty Fruit Cocktail Cake

Light Dump Cake