Quite honestly, I’ve always considered myself lucky to NOT have a black walnut tree on my property. Why? Not because a big shade tree is unwelcome. Not even because I prefer the vivid autumn colors of maples to the pale yellow of November’s remaining walnut leaves. Because—and this has been well-established by science—a brown pigment lodged in the tree’s twigs, leaves, bark, roots, and nut hulls called juglone is allelopathic. That is, it is toxic to other plants.
If you have a walnut tree, you know: nothing much will grow under it. You might expect grass to struggle anyway, but some of the things we like to establish under shade trees, such as impatiens or pachysandra or even roses, get poisoned by the juglone and die back.
Evidently a few plants are resistant:
- Virginia creeper
Perhaps you know of others?
But first, how do I extract the delicious “meat”? These things are as hard as stones. My friend puts them in his driveway and runs his truck over them, but although that evidently works, it doesn’t sound too appetizing. I can imagine a lot of work after scooping or sweeping them up, removing all the shell bits not to mention driveway gravel, grit, and dirt. Walnut juice also stains things dark brown, including fingers—in fact, it was used in times past as a dye.
So, what to do? Unlike some other nuts, I don’t see a clear seam on these, so breaking them open is not going to be easy. Shall I stomp on them with heavy boots, as Euell Gibbons suggested? Not sure either me or my boots are equal to that approach. Maybe I can whack them with a hammer or mallet over spread-out newspapers, which will absorb any dye and also help me better see and retrieve the tasty pieces? Or, perhaps better, I think I’ll wrap them in an old towel—I don’t want to get dinged with flying shards. If that doesn’t work, should I use a vice?