The black walnut is a native tree in this part of the world, and the nuts are prized by wildlife and humans alike. The hardwood is a favorite of cabinet makers, and I remember my uncle once pointing out several old and valuable walnut trees on the farm to my aunt, letting her know that if anything happened to him and she needed money fast, these were the trees to harvest. Thankfully, they haven't needed the trees, but it is nice to know they are there, in the bank, in case of tragedy.
Preparing the walnuts for use in baking, candy, etc., is a tiresome job, as first the green husk must be removed, leaving your fingers stained with the black juice. Then the tough shells must be cracked to get at the small, flavorful nutmeats. Processing can involve hammers and plywood boards; running over the nuts on an asphalt driveway has also been advocated. I have a black walnut behind my pond, but I don't do anything with the nuts - too much like work for me.
This tree has lost nearly all its leaves, but is full of walnuts, which can be seen in the close-up photo that follows.
Several years ago, I took a series of classes at the Cincinnati Nature Center, called "A Sense of Place." The goal was to teach us to look at the things around us and learn our native wildflowers, butterflies, birds, and trees. I should know the two different kinds of nuts that are in the next photos, but I have forgotten them. (Please don't tell my instructor, Bill Creasey.) I think they are both types of hickory nuts. The first one has a thin outer shell, while the second type is much thicker. Anybody want to weigh in?
I know this one, though.
I love newly harvested buckeyes - the rich, mahogany color, the contrasting tan "eye," the slick, glossy, slightly oily feel. I picked this one up and put it in my pocket for luck. Then, I began looking around for its companions. The weird thing was, I couldn't find any more buckeyes on the ground; I couldn't even find the tree this one came from. Nuts!