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Mark Daul provides an education on black walnut

Fri, Nov 17th 2017 08:50 am
By Mark Daul
Outdoors in Niagara
That beautiful time of the year is here, and yes, many people don't like it but they are missing the boat, so to speak.
Trees are getting redressed in their fall colors; the little four legged critters are foraging as quickly as they can to survive the winter months, most of the migrating birds are gone, and even the fish are fattening themselves up to get through the winter. Everyone is happy.
The life cycle goes on and it doesn't matter if you are a human, a plant, or an animal of some kind. It's like the Energizer Bunny, that cycle just keeps on marching.
What about trees? Well, trees give humans and animals the oxygen that we need to survive. Trees give homage to insects, birds, and for tree-climbing animals, refuge from predators.
When you see a tree that has fallen, leave it there if you can. That tree, more than likely, as it decays will give insects a place to live and propagate for their future generations. Rabbits especially like hollowed out logs. Insects are very important and we can cover that in a later column.
For now, let's concentrate on the black walnut tree. The black walnut is one of North America's most versatile and valuable trees. Probably the first thing you think, "walnuts?" Yes, you would be partially right, plus that nut is tasty, nutritious, high in protein, and Omega 3. The Native Americans knew that long before we came upon the scene. Fine furniture is made from its wood and veneer and is much in demand for woodworkers.
The dollar value of a black walnut tree can run into thousands of dollars, depending on several factors, like size and veneer quality. Tree service people in most cases will buy your tree so they can cut it down just to get the fine wood and veneer out of it. If you have one in your yard, don't cut it or damage it in any way. Admire it and let your friends know that money does grow on trees.
Someone gave me a cut up pile of black walnut a few years back, for my wood-burning stove. It was already cut and all I had to do is split it. When I was splitting it, I felt kind of bad, and when I looked at the wood grain and the beautiful colors that meandered through it, I saved a few pieces just to look at it and feel its smoothness later. What I had saved, this dummy picked it up one day and threw it in the firebox, but boy, did it burn good. I know, that might be called sacrilegious, but my woodpile was getting low and I burned it.
I don't know many people personally that have black walnut furniture, but if you know someone, take a close up look at the colors in it, the texture, and the grain. You will love it, plus it wouldn't hurt you to let the owner know how lucky they are.
There is a giant black walnut tree growing in a wooded area in my neighbor' yard. The tree is a big fat tall tree, very stately, and standing there wanting to be noticed. Not many people paid her attention because when the fruit fell, it dropped into the high grass around it, going unnoticed. It is "guesstimated" to be around 80 feet tall and probably 21/2 to 3 feet in diameter. It is said that one of these trees can grow as long as 200 years old. These trees are not "new" - they're native to the central and eastern United States.
There are not many people that would notice this giant in a wooded area along with other tall trees like tall oaks, maples, and elms. A person would have to walk through the woods with their head looking up all the time. But now you know the value of the black walnut and a little of its history.
September and October is harvest time for these walnuts. If you can reach up the tree with a long pole and a hook on the end, they are pretty easy to harvest. I had to laugh; my wife recognized a bunch of nuts that fell to the ground and picked them up and put them in an 8-quart basket. She brought them up to the picnic table and left them there overnight. She was going to shell them for drying and eating later. When she looked out the door about 9 a.m. the next morning, there were shells all over the top of the table and the nuts were gone. The squirrels invited themselves over for a midnight snack, I guess.
I hope none of the squirrels got sick because the nuts were hardly ready for eating. In fact, I think most of them were over ripe, as the outside hull on most of them was black with a little green on some, and some were just plain old starting to rot as far as I could see.
If you want to harvest these nuts to eat, it is a job. You need to remove that outside husk preferably with a pocketknife, and after they are hulled, wash them and let them air dry for about four days. Be sure to wear rubber gloves while doing this, as there is a black or a dark brownish dye that comes from them, and it will stain your hands for a few days. Some people even get a rash or skin irritation from handling them.
Now you can bust into the shell of the nut, pick it, and enjoy. Or, what I would do at this point, is go to the grocery store and buy a bag if I wanted them so bad, and they taste better anyway.
One thing I forgot to tell you is that you could use walnuts for fishing and be quite successful, although the game warden would want to hang you.
A southerner once told me his father would put a bunch of nuts in a burlap bag and break them up with a stick or a hammer. Then he would put the bag in a pond or a slow moving type of water. As the water surrounded the bag any fish in the immediate territory would get stunned and float to the surface; he would then harvest them while floating in the water. I asked him how they kept the bag down and he said they put a rock or a cinder block in the bag to keep it down. Duh?
Remember to take a kid, the elderly, your spouse or neighbor, fishing. And you fish hard so you don't get out-fished by a "newbie!"
Questions, suggestions, replies, etc.: Email [email protected]. I like getting emails.

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