Hurricanes and Gleaning
Happy Frankenstorm, everybody!
In case you’ve been living under a slab of tofu lately, apparently Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy will be kicking the ass of most of the East Coast over the next few days, and, what makes it special is that there is a winter storm coming east that should slam into the remnants of Sandy just about the time it hits western Pennsylvania, and then push it right back to the coast. Fun right?
So, this got the Blonde and I thinking about getting ready for the storm, and what we need to be ready. (Follow me on Twitter to get updates on how we’re faring!) That in itself made me start thinking about the gleaning we’ve been doing over the past few months. Gleaning originally meant picking up the wheat that fell off the cart during harvest. People who didn’t have enough to eat would walk through the fields after harvest, and gather wheat berries off the ground. Now, it’s a little more like gathering food that most people don’t even know is food.
We glean black walnuts.
While still on the tree, and just after they fall, black walnuts look like small tennis balls. They’re green, and hard, and leave dents in your car roof if you park under a walnut tree. If you pick them up just after they fall to the ground, or if you shake the branches and they fall, they’re perfectly ripe.
You want to gather them up just as they fall, and then grind the husk off them, If you do it barehanded, like I do, be ready for your hands to be stained brown for about a week. There are a ton of suggestions on how to de-husk and clean the walnuts, but I roll them on the ground under my foot to get most of the husk off, and then I use the walnuts themselves to clean other walnuts. In the shell, they’re remarkably effective at scraping other husk pieces off of other shells, so I always try to gather them in pairs.
If you have a dehydrator, you can dehydrate the clean walnuts, or, if you don’t, you can just leave them out for a few weeks to dry the shells and nut-meats before opening the walnuts. We usually leave them out for about 5 weeks before trying to open some.
To open them, we wrap the walnut in a rag, and smack it with a hammer. Seriously. The shells are super thick, and there isn’t much met in them, however, the meat is really tasty.
We gathered about 20 walnuts, mostly because we weren’t too sure how well they would turn out, and probably 5 of them were empty. The remaining 15 or so each yielded about 1.5 Tablespoons of meat, on average.
We were pretty happy with the yield, overall, but we want to be sure that we’re not stealing food from the local squirrels. I’m pretty sure that they bury about 100% more walnuts than they eat, but we don’t want any to starve because we’re gleaning their food.
So, all of this to say that, no matter how hard Sandy comes to visit, at least we have walnuts to eat!
Are there gleaning opportunities near you? I keep meaning to find out about more things that grow naturally, but I’m paranoid about it. Have you had any luck with harvesting wild foods?