MISSOURI GIRL EATS WEEDS
Wed, 10/06/2021 - 2:59pm admin
Ann J. Hines, PhD
Black walnut is one of the most treasured flavors of my Missouri childhood, right up there with other regional favorites like poke, persimmons, and morels. The flavor is associated with my grandma’s cakes and cookies, homemade ice cream, and my grandpa’s “date candy.” Have you ever had a root beer float made with black walnut ice cream? Divine! Why have plain English walnuts when you can have black walnuts? Okay, okay, full disclosure, they may be something of an acquired taste, but I’m too biased to imagine they are anything other than delicious.
If you’ve spent any time at all in this part of the state, you have certainly seen these tall, stately trees. In the late summer breezes, their small, yellow leaves fluttering to the ground is one of the earliest signs of autumn. We are blessed with dozens of large, beautiful trees on our property. My children have already begun collecting the nuts to sell—they are going for $20/100# this year. (That’s hulled weight, remember.) But if those were pennies lying all over the ground, would you pick them up? That’s easy money for an enterprising youth. If you want to try collecting them to use or sell, I recommend wearing gloves: their green hulls turn black when exposed to the air or bruised from falling to the ground, and they will also stain your fingers black!
But there is more to this tree than its beauty and unique taste. While it’s commonly known that walnuts are good for cardiovascular health, the black walnut offers much more in medicinal uses and nutritional qualities than its English cousin. The leaves and particularly the thick, green hulls have many notable medicinal uses; perhaps most well-known is its use as a laxative and anti-parasitic. And while it has a laxative effect, it can also help with diarrhea and other digestive complaints like colic, flatulence and heartburn. This is likely due to its ability to stimulate bile flow. It may also help with lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Its jugulone content makes it a powerful antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral. Interestingly, the tannins are thought to help shrink the sweat glands and reduce excessive sweating. It’s being studied for a wide range of ailments such as cancer, HIV, malaria and syphilis.
Are you already a fan of black walnut? What are your favorite ways to use it? Share your questions, comments, and recipes in our recently formed Facebook group, Missouri Girl Eats Weeds. Not a Facebook user? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.