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Fall is harvest time for Black Walnuts.  Residing in the Northeast US means you probably don't have to travel far to find a stand of Black Walnut trees to harvest from. 

Here Black Walnuts are all over the place, there is large heavy bearing trees on my farm and my neighbors adjoining property.  Most people in today's society don't know that this greenish, blackish little ball is actually hiding a nut inside. 

I am pretty sure my grandmother taught me how to harvest Black Walnuts.  I have pictures of our stained hands in an old photo album, but other than that picture I have no recollection of it. 

The process for harvesting your walnuts is easy.  Just find a tree and harvest the mostly green husked balls underneath.  That ends the easy part.  Now its time to get your hands dirty. 

After gathering a few buckets full of walnuts it's time to cut the husk from the shell.  Be sure to wear gloves as the natural die in the husk will stain your hands and clothing.  On a side note, black walnut husks are a great de-wormer for animals and livestock.  And that die contained in the husk was originally used by native Americans to die everything from clothing, hides, and even hair. 

Once your husks have been removed from the shells, set them up to dry on a drying rack or in onion sacks or any netting type bag will do.  After drying them for 2-3 weeks your nuts are ready to crack.  Black walnut shells are extremely hard and difficult to crack.  I have used a vise or a hammer to crack them with mild success.  A common walnut cracker will break when used on the Black Walnut's tough shell.  I have even heard of people trying to drive over them with their cars in attempts to crack the shell.  However you get it done the reward will be will worth it. 

If you have any helpful tips on easy ways to crack your walnut shells be sure to post them in the comments!