The Other Harvest

As an avid outdoorsman, when I think of fall, my mind quickly goes to the time of year when countless others like me hit the woods for turkey, big game, waterfowl, upland or small game harvests. In the small town of Stockton, Missouri, however, the fall season brings a different, yet very much relatable, harvest.

With a population of less than 2,000, Stockton is nestled in the Ozarks of southwest Missouri and is the home of Hammons Black Walnuts, a third-generation, family-owned business and the sole mass provider of black walnut products (for food and industrial use) across the country. From Oct. 1 to Nov. 15 of each year, Hammons’ headquarters is abuzz due to the harvest season for black walnuts, a distinctly renewable American resource.

While black walnut harvesting is regional and unfamiliar to some, the parallels to hunting harvests are easy to find. Here are just a few examples.

Anyone Can Do It

Both hunting and harvesting black walnuts are activities in which anyone can participate. Though no license is needed for harvesting black walnuts like there is for hunting, Hammons Black Walnut President and CEO Brian Hammons said getting permission to pick up the wild resource is needed when you don’t own the land, similar to getting permission for hunting on private land. However, the company does what it can to help connect harvesters with landowners who don’t plan to pick up the wild crop themselves. Hammons said this can be done by contacting a local hulling station or by using the AgButler app.

Preseason Work Pays Off

Whether scouting for wild game or black walnut trees full of nuts, the odds of a successful fall harvest are upped when homework is done. Miles Brite, Hammons’ procurement manager, pointed out that where you find black walnuts, you’ll also typically find turkeys, squirrels and other wild game.

Fellowship and Camaraderie

One of the favorite aspects of hunting for many is sharing camp and memories with friends and family, be it reliving hunts around the campfire or at the local outdoor store. Hammons and Brite both noted that the harvest for black walnuts is no different. Each fall, they build relationships with individuals and families at local hulling stations as the annual black walnut crop begins to pour in. Those families who spent time in the woods together relish in sharing their stories of new trees discovered, the success of the harvest and more.

Great Table Fare

We’ve all heard the saying that wild game, whether deer or turkey, tastes “gamey.” That is part of the allure for many. Game doesn’t taste like the meat from stores, and each animal has its own unique flavor that makes it perfect for countless recipes.

Black walnuts are no different, in that they are much more bold and earthy in flavor than the more common English walnut used frequently in kitchens across the country. However, once you try black walnuts and appreciate the flavor of a distinctly American resource, you may come to appreciate its unique flavor. It goes well with baked goods but also can be used in savory main course or side dishes and can surely compliment and impart flavor to your wild game harvest. A simple black walnut recipe is this black walnut butter used to create what we call “The Stockton” in an exclusive NWTF recipe.

A wide range of recipes are also available at the Hammons Black Walnut website.

Complete Use of the Resource

Similar to how hunters pursue game animals as a source of food, the spoils of the black walnut harvest are the edible portions, referred to as nutmeat, but there are countless uses for the by-products of black walnuts. In similar fashion, hunters try to use the entirety of their harvest by saving hearts and livers for food, turkey feathers in crafts, wing bones for turkey calls and more.

Black walnut protein powder and black walnut oils are rarely discussed edible black walnut products, but there are countless other uses. Cross sections of shells can be used in crafts, hulls are used by trappers to dye their traps, and items such as the shells of the black walnut are a marketable product for industrial purposes as an abrasive.

Those who dabble in reloading may use walnut shells to clean their brass, but primary uses can be for cleaning large items as an alternative to sand. Brite noted the Statue of Liberty was once cleaned with black walnut shells. The shells also can be used in the oil industry and for water filtration purposes.

Conservation is Important

Healthy habitats are critical to healthy harvests, whether it be black walnuts, wild turkeys or any other game species.

Hammons’ work to make sure black walnut trees continue to thrive across the landscape is akin to how hunters and the NWTF are working to ensure the future of wild turkeys and wild places remain for generations. This requires research, on-the-ground conservation efforts and discovering new ways to conserve a resource that in turn positively affects countless other plant and wildlife species.

To learn more about Hammons Black Walnuts or to participate in the harvest and find a local hulling station, visit www.black-walnuts.com.

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Missouri