The walnut harvest was a few months ago, but I seemed to only share photos with a little community known as Instagram.
This year, I learned to appreciate the walnut. I learned to appreciate the growers. And the people who process them. And I understand why they are so freaking expensive when you buy them all cracked and de-meated and beautifully wrapped in cellophane and jute in rustic supermarket gift baskets.
Because walnuts — and the whole process — is not pretty. And it’s not fun. And it goes on for week. Weeks, I tell you.
My aunt and I only processed three trees. I thought, OK, no biggie, a new experience. Our friend, who has an entire walnut grove, came in with his tree shaker, a giant Transformer-like machine. Two claw-like arms gripped the trunk of the tree and then a loud roar filled my eardrums and the walnut tree shook violently until most of the walnuts fell like thumps of hair into the grass (you must watch 15 seconds of that here).
We raked the walnuts into piles as he shook. And when he left, we continued to rake. And rake. And then we picked them up with our hands and filled wheel barrows and plastic bins with loads of walnuts. It took hours.
That was not the end of it. We haven’t, technically, reached the end, as there are still uncracked nuts in the shop. We put them handful by handful into a small cracker, with sent a mix of shells and nuts — and little pinkie worms, a few of them (it’s true, that’s real life, baby) — into a giant bucket (15 second video of the cracking process). For hours and more hours (through several movies), we handpicked through bowls full and discarded black walnuts and shells until we had big bags full of beautiful, meaty walnuts all ready for our friends and family to snack on.