by Erick Wikum
I am no arbiter of who can and cannot use the Little Miami Scenic Trail, but this fall, I have literally had to kick hundreds of nuts off the trail. These nuts were up to no good and acting so unsafely! They have been known to cause walkers and runners to stumble and to roll their ankles and have even caused cyclists to tumble to the ground. Each fall, so many nuts drop onto the trail uninvited. What’s a responsible trail user to do? I invite you to join me in my crusade to rid the trail of such nuts. I recently encountered some nuts that managed to escape, but I was able to snap a photo. Be on the lookout and if you see one of these nuts, don’t hesitate to kick it off the trail.
The husks shown in the picture are from a black walnut tree.
- The black walnut tree (Juglans nigra) is one of North America’s most valuable and beautiful native trees.
- The easily worked, close-grained wood of the black walnut has long been prized by furniture- and cabinetmakers for its attractive color and exceptional durability.
- The black walnut’s roots, which may extend 50 feet or more from the trunk, exude a natural herbicide known as juglone. This substance is also found in the tree’s leaves and fruit husks. Juglone inhibits many plants’ growth under and around the tree, thereby limiting the tree’s competition, leaving more water and nutrients for itself.
- The fruit of the black walnut tree drops in late summer through October. The size of a baseball and colored lime green, the fruit is quite heavy (and resistant to our fall trail leaf blowing operations).
- The “meat” inside the outer shell is edible. To harvest, collect the nuts as soon as possible to avoid mold and remove the husks immediately. Wear gloves as the husks stain your hands (and anything they touch). If the nut is too hard, wait a few days and it will brown and soften up. To remove the husk, you can simply step on them gently with an old pair of shoes. Hose down the nuts in a large bucket to remove any remaining husk. Dry the walnuts for a couple of weeks on a screen or drying rack or in a hanging mesh bag. You can store them unshelled for up to a year.