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FutureStarrA Planting Black Walnut Trees
Growing up, I was told to harvest black walnuts and burn them to ward off witches and evil spirits. This past fall I bought a house near where my mom, who grew up with the same superstition, now lives. I planted a tree outside of the house to honor my family, and to carry on the tradition.Black walnut trees are highly sought after. Foragers collect their fruits from midsummer through early fall to enjoy the rich flavor of their nutmeats – if they can beat the local wildlife. They are also among the most desirable hardwoods for furniture and cabinet making. Even their hulls can be put to use to make unique wood stain. You can remove the husks when they are green or black, but it’s much easier to remove them when they are black and dried out. I would also recommend using gloves to remove the husks because the juglone in walnut husks will bind to your skin and turn your hands black. It takes a long time for it to finally fade and be washed away.
Then, during the Civil War, the properties of this handsome wood made it the choice material for use in gunstocks … and the trees have continued to fall right and left ever since. In fact, so scarce did top-grade black walnut lumber become that, during World War II, the U.S. government instituted programs to encourage people to donate their dooryard nut-bearers to the military effort! (Even today, if you want to carve your own walnut gunstock, you may find that a nicely grained blank can cost $300 or more!) If you don’t want to use chemical weed controls, you can continue to rototill periodically throughout the three growing seasons, but such a program does involve a lot of labor. Black plastic mulch is probably the best all-around nontoxic solution. Cut each piece about three feet square, and make a small slit in the center for your seedling and a few small holes to let rainwater (but not the sun) in. (If you planted nuts, simply put the plastic down as soon as shoots appear.
To achieve maximum value for your efforts, your trees must be of veneer quality (such walnuts can command prices of $2.00 to $8.00 per board foot). And the only part that can be used to produce veneer (super-thin sheets of wood “peeled” from a log and used to cover lesser-grade lumber products) is the main bole (the trunk). A tree whose trunk rises 16 feet to the first branch will be twice as valuable as one with a branch at eight feet. The $11,000 hardwood I mentioned earlier was 30 inches in diameter at breast height (DBH) and towered 26 feet to the first branch!If you dry the nuts in a cool place, they should keep indefinitely. Their strong flavor and extremely high protein level (up to 20 times that of milk!) make them a favorite in the kitchen. With time and plenty of trees, you may even be able to gather enough nuts to sell, in a roadside operation or to a local bakery. As a result of our society’s indiscriminate use of herbicides — and because so many walnut trees have toppled to the woodcutter’s axe — North American nut production decreased 40% between 1963 and 1973! So 25 years from now, when your trees are dropping bushels of walnuts, the yearly crop may amount to a lot more than pennies from heaven. (Source: www.motherearthnews.com)