This is a story of How to Clean Black Walnuts, and I think you’re going to like it because now you’re going to be searching for them on your walks. You never know what treasures are out there that you didn’t even realize.

One of my almost daily rituals at Tulipwood is to go for walks in the state park across the street. This year, there have been a plethora of green tennis ball-shaped things dropping from the trees and I had been just walking on by assuming they were horse chestnuts.

Then one day we saw a lady collecting them along the road and we asked her about them. She told us they were black walnuts! She owns a Greek restaurant in town and loves to incorporate them into her recipes. How wonderful is that?

Black Walnuts are truly wonderful, and the wood incredibly valuable. Keep reading to learn How to Clean Black Walnuts as well as some tips I’ve learned along the way.


When I first went to collect them with my basket, they were dropping around me faster than I can scoop them up. It was truly amazing how many there were.


It takes years for these trees to fruit.


And when they do, they only fruit every two years. So this made it especially exciting.


This was the moment! And I wanted to make the most of it.


Although it is mostly valued for its decorative fine-grained wood, black walnut tree’s bark, root, leaves, and nuts all have medicinal properties


The thing about black walnuts though is that they are quite a chore. Cleaning them is another matter altogether. 


You start by cutting them open like an avocado but the seed is what you keep, it’s the tasty fruit.


You need heavy duty gloves. Lesson learned #1: the ones I had on in the previous photo weren’t enough and the yellow residue from the hulls soaked through. The yellow stuff stains EVERYTHING and your fingers will be stained for days.


Pro tip: don’t put these hulls in your compost pile or anywhere that you want things to grow, they are toxic to other plants. 


Even though the hulls aren’t good for your compost pile, the black walnut hulls contain juglone, a chemical that is antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic, and a fungicide. As a skin wash, black walnut hulls are used to treat ringworm and yeast infections of the skin. Taken internally, black walnut hulls are used to treat intestinal worms. There is also black walnut tincture which has wonderful medicinal properties.


Drop your nuts in a bucket, hose them down and let them soak. 


They will still have a spongy residue on the outside.


After a while the water will turn black! So you want to keep pouring it out and refreshing it. But don’t pour the water where you want plants to grow, find a rocky area because the liquid is toxic to plants. It will stain any stones you put it on so don’t use your pretty patio area.


Empty and refill! You may do this over the course of several days. 

Important lesson #3: Use a hose with a power washer extension. I learned this when I realized the residue needed more force to loosen.


Once the water stops turning black and just a light yellow, you may want to scrub your walnuts to help remove the additional residue as best you can. It won’t be perfect but it will dry out in the sun over time. 

Note: if any walnuts float to the top of your bucket, discard them. It means they don’t have a nut inside.


You can crack them open right away if you want to try them. They taste sweet, especially when still fresh and chewy.


But ideally, you let them dry out over the course of 6 months or as long as you can stand it and they will break open much more easily. Granted this is a lot of work, but I think there is something just so gratifying about it. All that work makes them much tastier than anything you’d buy in the grocery store, don’t you think?

Have you ever cleaned black walnuts before? Share any additional tips with us in the comments!

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Georgia Pellegrini

Growing up on her family’s farm in upstate New York, Georgia developed a passion for simple farm-to table food and a deep connection to the outdoors. Having worked in the finance world after college, she decided to leave her cubicle and reconnect with her roots. After graduating from the French Culinary Institute, she began working in Michelin restaurants in New York and France, and soon started leading her renowned Adventure Getaways: excursions around the country aimed at promoting “manual literacy” and helping participants step outside of their comfort zone and experience life more viscerally. Georgia is a firm believer in empowering people to be self-sufficient, identify personal strengths and pursue their life passions.