The Q&A Archives: Harvesting Walnuts

Question: I have a tree full of black walnuts and want to know when to pick them, i.e. preferably before the squirrels do, but don't want to pick them too soon before they are mature. After I pick them, then what do I do?

Answer: When walnuts are ripe they fall to the ground. If the tree is small you can expedite the process by spreading tarps or old sheets under the tree and then shaking the trunk to dislodge the nuts. If the tree is too large to shake, you may have to wait for the nuts to drop on their own. In either case, gathering the nuts is easiest if you spread a tarp under the tree to catch the nuts.

The husks of English Walnuts should fall off when the nuts ripen. The husks of Black Walnuts adhere tightly to the shells, even when the nuts are ripe. They also stain everything black. Wear rubber gloves when removing the nuts, or loosen the husks by placing the nuts on the driveway and running over them. The hard, thick shells should not be damaged by this treatment.

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