The Black Walnut Challenge

Black walnuts just fallen from the tree (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

10 October 2021

Black walnuts are ripe now and falling from the trees. Guarded by a black-staining husk and a very hard shell, getting to the walnut meat is a challenge for humans and squirrels alike.

Humans gather and process in bulk. Squirrels gather and eat one at a time. Humans use tools, squirrels use teeth.

Both of us get walnut stains on our hands. Squirrels also get stains in their mouths.

Stains on the hands after hulling 500 black walnuts (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

For a squirrel, husking a single black walnut takes about 8 minutes (watch 8 minutes here).

Fox squirrel opening a black walnut (photo by Donna Foyle)
Fox squirrel gnawing a black walnut (photo by Donna Foyle)

Opening the shell can take 40 minutes. (See photos and description at How to Open a Black Walnut). While the squirrel is gnawing the shell, you can hear a scratchy sound. Have you heard this sound in the woods? Watch and listen in the video below.

For an individual human it takes 3-4 weeks to gather, husk, clean, dry (3 weeks), and shell black walnuts. It makes sense to do this in bulk as shown in the video below.

Black walnuts are a challenge … so I buy them at the grocery store.

p.s. Read more about black walnuts at the Phipps #bioPGH blog.

(photos from Wikimedia Commons and Donna Foyle)

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