The Black Walnut
The Black Walnut, scientifically known as Juglans nigra, is a flowering tree that belongs to the hickory family. This species of tree is native to eastern North America. It grows mainly in riparian zones, from places such as south Ontario, South Dakota, Georgia, central Texas and northern Florida.
This tree is a large deciduous species that can grow to heights of forty feet. If it faces forest competition, it will develop a tall, clear bole. Unlike the open-grown form, it doesn’t have a short bole with a broad crown. The Black Walnut has a grey-black bark which is deeply furrowed. The centre of the twigs has air spaces in it. The leaves are alternate and pinnate, with the largest leaves being found in the centre.
Flowers and fruits
The flowers of this tree are monoecious. The male flowers form drooping catkins that are around ten centimetres long while the female flowers are terminal and are found on short spikes towards the twig’s end. They are yellow green in colour and bloom somewhere around late spring. They are found in clusters of two to five and ripen during autumn into a fruit that has a greenish-brown, semi-fleshy husk surround a brown, corrugated nut. The entire fruit, with the husk included, falls in October. The seed is quite small is extremely hard. This nut has sweet, oily meat within it that is edible. It matures from near late summer to fall. These trees usually crop more heavily every alternate year.
The Black Walnut has many uses, from its wood to its nut. The nuts from these trees are used commercially all over the United States. The nutmeats have a distinctive, robust, natural flavour and crunch, which makes it a good food ingredient. It is used widely in banking, confection and ice cream.
Producers use these walnuts in many traditional treats like cookies, cakes, pies and fudge during fall holidays. The fact that this nut has a strong nutritional profile means that it used in many foods such as fish, chicken, pork, salads, vegetables and pasta dishes. This walnut has a high unsaturated fat percentage and protein but has no cholesterol, making it quite healthy.
The Black Walnut is highly valuable due to its true, dark-coloured heartwood. Although it is strong and heavy, it can be easily split and worked. Walnut wood has been used throughout history for making furniture, paddles, flooring, coffins, gunstocks and many other woodwork products. It is so important that walnut poachers are being tracked down. The density of this tree’s wood makes it lighter than oak wood.
The seeds give out a meat that can be converted into a brownish-black dye. This was used by early settlers to dye their hair. Extracts of the outer soft part of the fruit are used even today as a natural dye for some handicrafts. The walnut has tannins in it that act as a mordant, making the dyeing process easier. It is used as a wood stain or as dark ink.