There’s a bumper crop of black walnuts in my neighborhood this month, so many that they’ve stained the sidewalk black. They’re good to eat but how do you open them?
If you’re a human, you put on rubber gloves and safety glasses and hit the nuts with a hammer. The first whack cracks the greenish-yellow husk that stains everything black, hence the gloves.
The husk is the easy part. The shells are very, very hard to crack. Some people suggest using a vise instead of a hammer to open the nuts but no matter what you do pieces of shell go flying, hence the safety glasses.
If you’re a squirrel you don’t have tools but you do have teeth.
Donna Foyle watched a fox squirrel open a black walnut outside her window. The squirrels open peanuts in a flash but this black walnut took a long time.
The squirrel began by gnawing a hole on the side of the nut.
“He quickly gnawed the shell, turning it, gnawing many times, turning it, gnawing almost in continuous quick motion, turning it again. He never deliberately stopped gnawing to spit out the shredded shell,” wrote Donna.
You can see he made the “sawdust” fly. No goggles for him!
After 40 minutes he’d made real headway. The hole was a bowl from which he ate the nutmeat.
Did he save the rest for later?
The squirrels in my neighborhood are eating fewer and saving more, burying them in everyone’s mulch.
(photos by Donna Foyle)