While raking up the leaves and other debris this fall, you might want to consider harvesting any nuts that may have fallen from your nut trees. Obviously we don’t all have nut trees, but for those of you who do, it’s not that difficult. Gather all of the nuts from the ground, and if you need more, shake them from the tree (if the tree isn’t too big). Look for and discard any nuts with wormholes or any other signs of damage.
English Walnuts: when many have fallen from the tree on their own, check for ripeness by opening a couple to see if the hulls come off easily from the nut. Wash the shells with a course spray of water to clean them. Toss away any with cracked shells or damage then allow the rest to air-dry for about two weeks. Before storing, open a couple and see if the nuts inside can be broken cleanly. If so, place into airtight containers and refrigerate for up to six months, or freeze for over a year.
Pecans: Look for the hulls to be splitting on the tree. Remove all with wormholes and other damage then allow the remaining pecans to dry for two weeks outside. Before storing, remove a few and try to break them in half. If they break cleanly, then they are ready for storage much the same way as the English Walnuts.
Chestnuts: The difference here is that you must wait until they fall from the tree (no shaking) then straight to storage (no drying first). Of course discard all with wormholes and other signs of damage before placing them into the airtight containers. Removal of the chestnut from the burr, or outer shell is necessary before storing. Again, refrigerate for six months or freeze for a year.
Pine Nuts: Also harvested at this time of year but not around here. Pine nuts are generally grown in the arid mountain forests of New Mexico and hand-harvested to this day then sold to middlemen parked on old Route 66 who in turn sell them to distributors worldwide. Pine nuts are used in many food recipes all over the world and in some versions of pesto. Evidence of the use of pine nuts dates back to 10,000 years ago.
…And one more thing, it is suggested that you wear gloves while handling English walnuts and chestnuts.