About the Messing-Up of Kitchens and the Making of Black Walnut Dye

Recently I went on a quest to discover the species of my newest friends, Walnut Tree #1, and Walnut Tree #2. (They haven’t told me their names yet, so I’ve assigned my own).

I thought I’d post about my walnut husking adventures herein.


ACK WAIT! Before you start, don’t use ANYTHING to do this that you want to keep for your best guests. This stuff stains EVERYTHING. It even makes stainless steel hard to clean. You’ve been warned.

Step One: 

Aquire a walnut tree, or borrow one from a friend.

Step Two: 

Wait until Fall.

Step Three: 

Go around your yard every day or two and collect the lemony little citrus tennis balls that will contain your walnuts. Do this, like I said, every day or two, or you will be overcome in a walnut-ocalypse after any windstorms (speaking from experience). They also dry out irrevocably after a few days, so best to avoid this.

Step Four: 

SMASH ‘EM!!! I’ve tried this several ways. Two methods stand out. There is the rock-stump method, in which you smash said tennis ball walnuts with a rock on the nearest stump, or the squish-it-with-your-foot method in which you stomp on them on a hard surface until they make a satisfying *pop*, but before you crush the goodness within. (Less stomping, more increasing pressure like a gas pedal). I have been doing too many walnuts, and got into a kind of repetitive strain tendonitis thing (“You’ve made your arm so sore doing what?” – my doctor), so I suggest you try the stomping method. Provided you have shoes you don’t care about in the least, because they will be stained after this, and covered in walnut goo. Pick up your husks and put them in a jar or ziploc in the fridge. (If you’re planning on getting a mess of them, that is. If not, continue on with what you have).

Step Five:

Grab two bowls, a barbecue scraper, rubber gloves and a garden hose. Change into your grubs. Maybe even don safety glasses or a face shield if you have one. This part is messy, and I have many freckles on my face and arms that weren’t there before from walnut juice. This stuff will make your hands black as night. If that’s what you’re going for, then have at ‘er. I prefer a cleaner approach. (You’ll get dirty enough anyways). Have your tools assembled thusly: bowl full of walnuts, hose, scraper, clean bowl.

What I do, is stand on my deck at the railing, and line everything up production-line style. Take a walnut, hose it, and then use the barbecue scraper to get off any extra fibrous stuff. Once you’re done scraping, hose it off again, and place it in the clean bowl. Then hose off your gloves, and everything else, because the goo builds up quickly.

Step Six:

Take your walnut husks, place them in a pot, cover them with water, and boil the crap out of them for 1 hour or more. Try to boil off as much water as possible… it should be a runny tomato sauce consistency, with bits in it of course. Use a potato masher to squeeze all the juice you can out of the bits.

Protip: Don’t use your husband’s expensive stainless steel cookware. He will not be pleased. Buy yourself an old army cook pot at a thrift store.

Step Seven:

Bottle it up! I used a strainer to get out the big bits first, then used a funnel to put the dye into mason jars. You can store it in the fridge. I’m not sure if it’ll go funky after awhile (you might discover walnut hooch inadvertently if you don’t keep it cold… could be good). 
When you’re done, you’ll have a big pile of crap that looks like coffee grinds. You can put this in cheesecloth and weight it if you want maximum walnut juice extraction, but I didn’t get much more for all the effort I put in (and the extra mess).
Walnut…. bits.
So yeah! This is a fun and messy way to pass an afternoon. You can put the walnuts somewhere where they can dry out (on a cooling rack or something of your own devising). I hit up the dollar store for some cheap ones and got 10 for $5. The walnuts will be ready to crack and eat in 6 weeks or so! I haven’t tried any yet… here’s hoping they’re tasty. Otherwise, I am going to be very popular with the squirrels around here.
Happy walnutting! 🙂

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