I cook unripe black walnuts (Juglans nigra) exclusively, but some traditional European recipes call for English walnuts. I assume they can be cooked interchangeably, but I've only worked with black walnuts myself.
Unripe hickory nuts and pecans, as well as butternuts (which I have used) can probably be used in a similar way, although the aroma of green hickory and pecans I've smelled isn't as intense as black walnuts or butternuts. For the best results, use black walnuts or butternuts.
You're looking for meristematic (young) that you will harvest directly from the tree before the shell forms. While it can be tempting, don't harvest green nuts directly from the ground- those have been rejected by the tree and are not good for eating. Look for nuts about the size of a small ping-pong ball, although sizes can vary a bit depending on the individual tree and time of year.
An easy way to tell if a nut has started to form the shell inside is by piercing the green nuts with a paring knife-if you hit resistance, you're too late-try again next year. Cut open a few, especially if you're harvesting from different trees.
If the shell has started to form, you will know. Nuts that are starting to form shells but are still green can be used to make nocino, vin de noix, and infusions as the nuts are discarded after their flavor has been extracted.
After the walnut are harvested I usually refrigerate or keep them as cool as possible. Over time they'll start to discolor and lose their bright green color, but, in a pinch, for a short period of time, they can be stored at room temperature.
I once stored 300 pounds of green walnuts in a garage for three days before the distillery could pick them up to make nocino from them and didn't notice a large issue. I kept the nuts in laundry bins for extra air-flow and it seemed to help. You could probably freeze green walnuts, but I never have as I harvest relatively small amounts and process them quickly.
Harvesting black walnuts and the leaves of the tree is one of the most sustainable things I know of. During a mast year, I've seen single trees drop multiple hundreds of nuts. As only so many trees can be supported in a certain area, taking the small amount needed for most green walnut recipes doesn't constitute any sort of tangible threat to black walnut trees.
Unripe black walnuts aren't the only part of the tree that has traditional uses. The young leaves of the tree (and they must be young or they won't have a strong aroma) also have a place in traditional cooking, and I have a number of references to them being used to make piquant sauces from early American cook books.
Just like with ripe walnuts, green walnuts will stain anything and everything black (the mature husks are also used as a dye). To get around the staining issue, I harvest and process them wearing gloves. If you don't wear gloves, your hands will look like crypt-keeper hands, with the stains remaining up to a few weeks. You've been warned!
Some recipes call for peeling or paring the unripe nuts. Using a paring knife takes some talent, and most household vegetable peelers aren't good enough. Kuhn Rikon peelers are a standby in professional kitchens and are the best tool I've found for peeling unripe walnuts for making walnut jam/preserves.
There's lots of variations in the recipes, with some calling for pounding the nuts and squeezing out the juice (I had no success with that) and some just using crushed green nuts to infuse a liquid. My favorite version uses chopped, cooked nuts, with the whole mixture getting pureed into a sauce to finish. The finished product reminds me of steak sauce.
It tastes like a rich infused vinegar-great with fish or added to sauces and dressings. The age of the leaves is important here, and only very young, bright green spring leaves should be used as older leaves lose their aroma as they grow.
The nuts turn black during the process and look like dark jewels, they're eaten whole, or cut into pieces as pictured above. I like to serve them after dinner with cheese and a small glass of sherry. The texture of the unripe nuts inside the pared husk is the best part: soft and tender, reminding me of cheese or bone marrow. It's a fascinating use of the entire green nut.
Not a traditional recipe to my knowledge, green walnut molasses is something I made as an experiment. I was inspired to try making a syrup similar to Italian mugolio or pine cone syrup where you take unripe walnuts, cut them in half, and mix with twice their volume of good (brown or non-white) sugar and leave at room temperature.
One of the most popular traditional uses of unripe walnuts is in liquors and infusions. So far, I know of three, but I can only assume there's more. If you know any others I'm not aware of, please leave a comment.
Nocino, an Italian liquor made from infusing cut young walnuts in everclear or another flavorless spirit like vodka, is probably the most well-known. It takes a long time to mellow, and is usually ready in about 6-8 months.
I hope you've enjoyed learning about a few ways you can cook with green walnuts. If you have anything to add, or, especially any other traditional preparations you don't see here, please leave a comment. I love adding new things to the list.
Hello,knowing that the recipes here are save to consume I was wondering what in the process makes the Juglone, which is also toxic to humans, break down Pre-Juglone, is non toxic before it oxidizes in the air and since I've come across tapping black walnuts to make syrup I would rather not drink the sap itself, but will boiling break juglone down What is your take on this or do you have a resource where one can research further
Green walnuts are the unripe fruit of trees in the Juglans genus, namely black walnuts, Persian walnuts, and even the butternuts native to the eastern US. They all have a bright spiced citrus scent early on in their development.
The tradition of harvesting green walnuts goes all the way back to antiquity, and some of the earliest records document their use during the Roman occupation of Celtic lands in what is present-day Brittan and Scotland (around 300 BC).
As the story goes, early Celtic tribes would send barefoot virgins into the walnut groves to harvest unripe walnuts on the solstice each year. The nuts would be steeped in alcohol, likely mead or wine, to macerate for 6 months until the winter solstice.
It has quite a few recipes using green walnuts, along with all manner of other tasty wild edibles. He has a good-sized section on acorn flour and acorn recipes, wild rice, wild greens, seasonings, and just about everything under the sun. What I love about his work is that it often incorporates the really unique and fun-to-find wild foods, like unripe walnuts.
I immediately got to slicing my little beauties and started a batch of Vin de Niox, which is a french recipe for black walnuts infused in wine, along with other complementary aromatics like citrus zest and spices.
My friend Teri at Homestead Honey does a lot of work with walnut trees. They make black walnut cutting boards for their Etsy shop, and they even tap their black walnut trees for syrup in the spring. Her recipe for nocino is adapted from the book Preserving Wild Foods. She starts by steeping green walnuts in vodka along with cinnamon, anise, and a lemon.
(Note that the walnuts need to be bigger for this recipe, about the size of a ping pong ball, since they need to be peeled, and the ratio of outer husk to the inner nut is important to this preserve. If you have tiny almond-sized green walnuts, go with a liqueur instead.)
Inspired by nocino, Italian green walnut syrup known as Sciroppo di Noci Verdi is basically just green walnuts soaked in simple syrup and then strained. The syrup is kept and used as a topping for all manner of things, including ice cream.
The Romans adopted the practice from the Picts and brought it back to Italy where nocino production became deeply embedded in Italian culture. According to ancient lore, Romans would send an odd number of barefooted virgins into the trees each year on the night between June 23 and June 24 to collect the walnuts. The nuts were then cut in half and submerged in alcohol to macerate until December, when the nocino was consumed during the rituals that accompanied the winter solstice. During the 4th century AD, after Christianaity was adopted as the official religion of the Roman Empire, these practices were changed to coincide with the corresponding Christian holidays of the Feast of Saint John and Christmas, respectively.
On or around the date of June 24, harvest your walnuts. That same day, cut them in half and place them in a two-quart mason jar and cover them with 151 proof vodka. Let it macerate at room temperature for approximately five months.
In late November or early December, strain out the black walnuts and reserve the liquid (should yield around four cups). Add four cups of water, two tablespoons of Angostura bitters and one cup of rich demerara syrup (recipe below). It will keep indefinitely at room temperature.
The process for pickled walnuts is not hard at all, but it takes more than a week. You need to brine the green walnuts for a good long time before they will be ready to pickle properly. The brine time helps with preservation and removes some of the bitterness in the unripe walnuts. Once brine pickled, they are pretty durable.
I made mine with Wisconsin black walnuts and put them in the cellar in the dark on July 10. Temperature constant at 68 deg. I just sliced and tried one. The rind texture was almost gritty and not a good mouth feel. I spit that part out, but the unripe meat in the middle was edible. Should I just wait longer I followed your recipe exactly, except for walnut origin. Thanks
I picked my walnuts on 21st June and they have had 2 weeks in brine (changed after a week) and 2 days in the sun so they are really black now. When I picked them, they were soft all through and easy to cut but, during the 2 weeks in brine, they seem to have developed a slightly hard shell so there is some resistance when I cut them. Will this soften during the pickling process, or should I have picked them earlier I am in Sussex. This is the first crop from our tree which we planted from a walnut picked in France 15 years ago. 59ce067264