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Nuts: Harvesting and Storing

by Don Janssen, Extension Educator

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Several nut species grow in Nebraska. Some nut species grow in the wild; however, nuts from these trees are often insect-infested and inedible. Nuts you can grow in Nebraska include: black walnut, butternut, chestnut, filbert or hazelnut and hickory nut.

You harvest nuts from most trees after they fall to the ground. Most nut trees are too tall to harvest with a ladder. A fall from the tree does not hurt the nuts, but it does hurt you! Once a few nuts begin to fall from the trees, you can harvest the remaining nuts by shaking the tree or its limbs with a long pole. Once the nuts fall, pick them up quickly.

Hull walnuts quickly after you have harvested them. If you leave the husk on, black walnuts have a stain that penetrates the shell to discolor and disflavor the meat. Wear either rubber or plastic waterproof gloves when handling black walnuts to prevent the nuts from staining your hands. Walnut stains persist. Use a corn sheller, if one is available, to remove the nuts more easily. You may wait until the husk darkens and then the nut will be easier to remove.

After hulling the nuts, spread them out on the lawn and wash them off with a garden hose or in a tub of water If you put walnuts in water, the edible nuts sink. Floating nuts do not have well-filled kernels and you may want to throw them away.

Dry the cleaned nuts quickly. To dry walnuts: place them in shallow layers, no more than three deep and put them in a cool, dry place with good air circulation. A fan speeds the drying process. A garage or shed works well to dry nuts. Drying takes about two weeks.

Butternuts are handled like the black walnuts.

Gather chestnuts regularly as the nuts fall from the tree. If the nuts don't separate from the burrs, pick up the burrs. The burrs will open as they dry.

Use heavy leather gloves to protect your hands from the sharp spines on the burrs. Cure chestnuts in a shady, cool and rather humid place for several days after you harvest them. Don't let the nuts dry out too much. Chestnuts do not store well. You can keep small amounts in airtight containers in your freezer. Soaking dried chestnuts overnight, in water, softens them.

You also need to gather filberts as they fall. Separate the nuts with no kernels from the good nuts by putting them in water and removing the ones that float. Discard any nuts with holes in the shells; these are insect-infested. After drying them for a few days, store the filberts in a cool, dry place. If you store these nuts at thirty-two to thirty-five degrees, you can keep filberts up to two years.

Dry hickory nuts right after you harvest them. After the kernels become crisp, store them in a cool, dry place. Weevils often infest hickory nuts. You can remove infested nuts by the water-sorting method that was described previously. If weevils become a problem, crack the nuts as soon as possible and store clean kernels in the freezer.

Except for chestnuts, all the nuts described above have a high oil content. These oils may go rancid quickly if you don't store them properly. You can keep all of the nuts in the freezer, but they may pick up odors from other foods. To save space, shell the nuts before you freeze them. Store the nuts in heavy plastic bags or sealed, airtight, plastic containers to prevent them from drying out.

(Resource reference # 064. For information on reproducing this information or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

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University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office