Monday, August 22, 2011

Black Walnut Adventures

I was recently introduced to the Eastern Black Walnut tree juglans nigra through its fruit, which hung heavy and green, like smooth golf balls. Parts of last year's crop that the squirrels had spared lay dried in the grass, but the fresh new fruit smelled fresh, almost citrusy. Evan, the tree owner, advised that the nuts are very difficult to open. He may as well have thrown down a glove.

Back home the children and I tried to crack it. The husk came off relatively easy with a knife. Immediately the flesh began to oxidise and turn brown. After rendering inoperable a heavy-duty and formerly rather nice nutcracker, we conceded that black walnuts are, in fact, rather hard to open. We also noticed that my hands were turning various shades of yellow to dark brown and black, as was the counter top, and ... it didn't come off. Emma wondered if this is why it's called black walnut. We took the stubborn nut outside and pretended we were hunter-gatherers, smashing our dinner open with a rock. Success! Tasty, but hard-earned. No wonder they are so expensive to buy.

Having already discovered the dyeing properties, we then decided to dye something for real. Using a piece of white cotton fabric, the result was an earthy dark brown. Not a colour en vogue this year, but it would be perfect for camo gear. Thank you Evan for inspiring an afternoon of fun and discovery!

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