If you’re a nut about nuts, here’s a ‘wild’ idea: try using Black Walnuts in recipes calling simply for Walnuts.
Even the most devoted nut lover may discover something new in the wild, unconventional appeal of the Black Walnut as compared with the more common “Walnut” (or “English Walnut”). Boasting similarly high nutrition as its commercially-grown cousin, the Black Walnut is native to America and grows wild across the Midwest. You may have a walnut tree in your backyard with black walnuts that drop to the ground every fall.
While the shell of an English Walnut is thin and easy to crack, Black Walnuts have a tough, hard shell that protects the natural flavor of the nutmeat inside.
But the biggest difference between the two walnut varieties is flavor. Because the Black Walnut grows wild, its taste is more robust and out-of-the-ordinary than orchard-grown nuts. The rich, earthy flavor is derived from the roots of the tree, much in the way the flavor of wine comes from minerals in the vineyard’s soil. It’s truly nature’s gift. The result is a full, untamed natural flavor that’s distinctive in baked goods, ice cream, candies, and culinary creations.
By substituting Black Walnuts for English Walnuts (usually found in stores simply as “Walnuts”) you’ll be adding more flavor—and the appeal of a trendy, regional American ingredient. Plus, you’ll be using a highly sustainable wild ingredient that’s harvested by hand, thus friendly to the environment.
Black Walnuts can be found under many brand names in the baking aisle or produce section of most grocery stores.
If you’re ready to get a little wild, here are some recipes calling for black walnuts that you could try, courtesy of the Hammons Products Company. Three of these recipes also include links to “how-to” videos to help guide you through the process. (See the Fruit Crisp “how-to” video below.)
Black Walnut Fruit Crisp (includes link to “how-to” video)
Black Walnut Wild Rice (includes link to “how-to” video)
Pork Loin with Black Walnuts and Mustard Sauce (includes link to “how-to” video)
Processing and distribution of Black Walnuts is done primarily by Hammons Products Company in the small town of Stockton, Missouri. The family-owned company, currently in its third generation, has been known as “The Black Walnut People” since 1946. Hammons supplied much of the information in this article.