The Tradition Of Harvesting Black Walnuts

For centuries, the North American black walnut, was everywhere in the Eastern United States. Gathering the nuts was a Fall ritual for people who lived near the woods. But the walnut tree was also coveted for its wood, so much so that in 1927 the Kentucky Department of Agriculture warned that the black walnut was a disappearing species.

Harvesting Black Walnuts

Luckily, reports of its demise were greatly exaggerated. In fact, there is a coalition of interests in America that is protecting the black walnut. Their goal is to encourage limits on tree cutting and making sure that there are always new growth. Most important, it encourages people to go out to collect and eat this great and tasty nut.

The Tradition Of Harvesting Black Walnuts In Ohio

At Wheelersburg, in the hill country of southern Ohio, Christina Gerlach is doing her part. Through her feed store, Gerlach Farm and Feed, she buys any black walnuts that her neighbors collect when the nuts fall in October and November. In 2000, she brought fifty-two thousand pounds of hulled walnuts, paying $10 for each one hundred pounds. In 2018, the sales price for a single 25 pound of bulk walnuts is $135. So that is $10 for 100 pounds hulled but still in the shell and $540 for 100 pounds of walnuts taken out of their shells.

Walnuts And The Hammons Product Company

Hammons Product Company History, Hammons Bulk Walnuts

Some collectors bring as little as a bushel of nuts for a cash exchange. One man over three weekends collected six thousand pounds, enough to fill his pickup six times. The Hammons Product Company of Missouri is the number one processor of walnuts in America. It is most likely that all of these walnuts go here before ending up on the plates of customers. They can be found at

Some collect nuts to add a little to the household income. There is a ninety-year-old woman who always brings in a few. It is what she has always done in the Ohio hills in October. She says that she will continue to do this work as long as she is able. For some people, it is a family event, a celebration of the harvest, a Saturday outing that recalls earlier times for the grandparents and lets the grandchildren experience what it was like back then. Whoever shows up for harvesting black walnuts always obtains stained hands, a badge of honor for their Fall work under the black walnut trees.

Christina’s rural feed store is one of 250 places in the thirteen walnut growing states of the East that gather these tough wild forest nuts for Missouri’s Hammon Company, America’s largest processor and marketer of black walnuts. That company started small way back in 1946. Today, it markets two million pounds of nutmeats a year. That is good news.
After all, the black walnut is one of the richest nuts, and we all now know, the richer the nut, the better it for us.