Fremont County, Iowa

Black Walnuts
by Jerry Birkby

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of 29 December 2008

At this time of year, when traditions are so important as we celebrate the holidays, what is more traditional in the Midwest than Black Walnuts? Christmas Trees, maybe? Surely Christmas trees and walnut nutmeats at Christmas time would go together like egg and nogg. So, when Terry and Lona Lewis suggested my wife and I bring some cracked black walnuts up to their Horse Creek Christmas Tree Farm and offer them for sale, we jumped at the chance.

Jo Ann and I are sole proprietors in a small cottage industry involving black walnuts. At least, that is our term for ourselves; it has a much better ring than “galley slaves.”

Through some fortuitous state of affairs, there are over thirty black walnut trees in and around the area we mow and every year their largess showers unbidden on our yard, our flower beds, our asparagus bed, our fish pond, our---, but you get the idea. And this is all free. They falleth on the just, and on the unjust, even unto many generations. Since we live on a Century Farm west of Sidney, this is a case of the sins of the fathers being visited upon the sons. Even so, what could be simpler than to pick up these riches, process them and offer the succulent nutmeats to a clamoring public for a price?

“Crack up a few bushels of walnuts,” Lona said. “Package them up and bring them up here and we will offer them for sale. You’ll make a fortune. Oh, and write a little sales pitch to go on the packages.”

So, I cracked the walnuts and sat down and typed out the most calmly reasoned diatribe I have ever laid before an unsuspecting public even though it is painful to write with mashed fingers:


Yes, you can! Armed only with a nut pick and a steely determination, in one evening you can garner enough delicious nutmeats from one of our pre-cracked and presorted packages of wild Black Walnuts to add an indescribable flavor to many of your own time-honored recipes.

Remember your mother’s cookie recipe, the cake your grandmother used to make, the torte that was your aunt’s specialty? Now the accolades that were showered on them can be yours. Imagine your young ones clustered around a festive table early on a snowy holiday morning, their faces all aglow, a look of stunned wonderment stealing into their eyes at the very first taste of one of your culinary masterpieces enhanced by the subtle flavor of Black Walnut. Start out their day with a bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with Black Walnut nutmeats; later serve up a bit of ice cream covered with crushed black walnuts. Such is the stuff of which legends are made and all this can be yours for the low, low price marked on the individual packages arranged before you.

To date, we have not sold one walnut (which makes me think people are smarter than I would have believed possible), but it hasn’t been a total loss--I got to write this article for the Historical Society. Since I have been a member since the Society’s inception and have never really done anything for them, it was time.

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Page updated on November 1, 2020 by Karyn Techau