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Harvesting Heartnuts (Juglans ailantifolia)

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Project by Radicalfarmergal posted 1753 days ago 7824 views 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

When we moved into our old farmhouse, we acquired a beautiful, approximately 20 year old nut tree that offers us an abundant harvest of nuts every fall. After a little botanic sleuthing, I figured out it is not a butternut (which the leaves, branches and trunk closely resemble), but a heartnut tree. The heartnut is considered a seed sport of the Japanese walnut. Heartnuts produce tasty nuts, high in fiber, antioxidants and protein. The taste is sweet and mild. Like the butternut, the heartnut is a wonderful nut for cooking and baking. Toasting brings out their flavor. Heartnuts can be substituted in any recipe that uses walnuts, including pesto, cookies and quick breads. Many of ours are just eaten raw, right from the shell, because my young sons love to crack the nuts open with a hammer and eat them right away. A nutcracker works just as well, but perhaps is not as much fun.

We harvest the heartnuts in September and October when they fall from the tree. The thin, green husk on the nut remains attached at harvest, but falls off after drying. If my sons can’t wait, they stomp on the nuts to remove the shells. We dry the nuts for several weeks in a cool, dry place. After finding a fungus growing on a few of our stored nuts, we have learned to store them in open baskets to promote good air circulation.

I have taken a few pictures to show you what our heartnut harvest looks like. All I have left to do now is to go bake something….

First photo – the heartnuts as they look when we picked them up from under the tree.
Second photo – the heartnuts with their outer husks removed, drying on a paper towel
Third photo – the heartnut tree behind the house
Fourth photo – my son showing an almost whole heartnut he removed from its shell

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout



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Radicalfarmergal

4296 posts in 1836 days
hardiness zone 5b

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12 comments so far

View Bon's profile

Bon

7374 posts in 2353 days
hardiness zone 5a

posted 1753 days ago

What an interesting blog Radgal.I’ve never heard of these nuts before.Thanks for sharing them with us.And what a huge tree that is.

-- Bon,Hastings,Ont.....zone 5a....Always room for one more

View Iris43's profile

Iris43

3799 posts in 2203 days
hardiness zone 5a

posted 1753 days ago

I never heard of this kind of nut. It resembles a hickory nut, from your pictures. And sounds like the same kind of mild flavour. Thanks for sharing this info with us. Do they grow naturely in your area?

We used to gather hickory nuts with my Dad when i was a child. And like your children, we loved to crack them with a hammer and eat them raw. Even with squashed thumbs. LOL

-- 'To plant a Garden is to believe in Tomorrow'

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Radicalfarmergal

4296 posts in 1836 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 1752 days ago

Bon, the tree does grow quite large. If you are planting two, they recommend placing them 100 feet (30 meters) apart. Unfortunately, the previous owners who planted the tree placed it only a few meters away from the house. We are keeping it trimmed but there will probably come a day when it will have to be removed to protect the house.

Iris, heartnut trees are not native to this area but they grow well where butternut trees grow and butternuts are native to our area. Unfortunately, all the native butternuts are dying from a canker. From what I have read on the internet, heartnut trees grow well in rich, moist soil and in sheltered areas with high water tables. Zone 6 seems to be their preferred hardiness zone. Although they can grow in colder areas, late frosts in April and May can kill their blossoms and they will produce less/no fruit. Our tree is protected on the north side by the house and enjoys a sunny southern exposure. We haven’t noticed any problem with late frosts since we moved here.

A finger food that involves a hammer, every child’s dream! As you know first-hand, thumbs heal and the wonderful memories remain.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View mario1360's profile

mario1360

921 posts in 1988 days
hardiness zone 5a

posted 1752 days ago

lovely, and lucky…..

-- south shore montreal, zone 5a, whish it was 9

View sharad's profile

sharad

1620 posts in 1790 days
hardiness zone 11

posted 1751 days ago

Thanks for introduving us to a new nut. You are so lucky to have this tree in your premises. Generall ynuts are more tasty after roasting. They appear to be nutritionaly good as well. Good photos. How do you harvest the nuts on such a big tree? Are they allowed to fall down naturally and then collected?
Sharad

-- Bagwan-- “If someone feels that they had never made a mistake in their life, then it means they have never tried a new thing in their life”.-Albert Einstein

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4296 posts in 1836 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 1751 days ago

We let them fall from the tree naturally and then collect them. The nuts fall over a period of one or two months and we have to pick them up quickly to beat the squirrels and chipmunks.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14673 posts in 2573 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 1751 days ago

I have seedlings (that’s what the deer kept digging up last spring!)
and my brother has a “field” of trees.
Can’t wait to get a bucket full of nuts!

thanks for the blog

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

View firecaster's profile

firecaster

81 posts in 2019 days
hardiness zone 7

posted 1748 days ago

I’ve never heard of that.

-- Father of two boys. Both Eagle Scouts.

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4296 posts in 1836 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 1748 days ago

Firecaster, these trees will grow in hardiness zone 7, if you have the room for them. I could send you some nuts to try to grow. The seedlings grow like crazy around here each spring because the squirrels hide them all over and then forget them. However, my understanding is that it is not a stable cultivar and the seedlings might revert back to a Japanese walnut. To be sure to get a heartnut tree, you need to graft it onto a walnut stock.

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View HokieMojo's profile

HokieMojo

12 posts in 1744 days

posted 1744 days ago

i wonder if the tree would be valuable as lumber. most other walnut trees produce valuable lumber. Maybe this would be the same. Might be worth considering if you were to ever have the tree removed.

View Radicalfarmergal's profile

Radicalfarmergal

4296 posts in 1836 days
hardiness zone 5b

posted 1743 days ago

HokieMojo, you are absolutely right. My husband is the woodworker in the family and I think he already has his eye on the tree, especially the trunk! Similar to the wood of the butternut, heartnut wood is supposed to be good for furniture making and fine woodworking projects. As the family gardener, however, I prefer to let it live as long as possible…

-- "...I have nothing against authorities as such; I am only in favor of putting a question mark after just about everything they say." Ruth Stout

View HokieMojo's profile

HokieMojo

12 posts in 1744 days

posted 1134 days ago

I agree. Let it go and when it’s time comes, it can have a second life!

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