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Drying and storing walnuts after harvest – How to get the best out of the healthy natural product

After they are freshly harvested, you can dry and store walnuts to enjoy flavor and health benefits longer. Usually, walnut trees begin bearing fruit in early fall, and this is an ideal time to harvest them in warm weather. In addition, walnuts can be stored indoors and outdoors before eating and after drying. However, drying itself requires a little patience, as it can’t be done overnight, but the process is simple. Here are the main steps and tips you can follow to get the job done without any problems.

What to consider before drying and storing walnuts

dry freshly harvested walnuts and store them in a ventilated place

Many people know that by buying walnuts, they are essentially buying a pig in a poke. After all, it is not known what might be under the shell: a tasty kernel or a black nut that has rotted into pieces. Moreover, the condition as well as the use of walnuts depends not only on the degree of ripeness, but also on how you dry them and in what form you would store them. So, if you prefer to buy such nuts already shelled, you should be able to rely on their purity and the absence of microbes in them. After all, cleaned walnuts usually lie in the open air, which makes them susceptible to dust and other harmful substances.

dry walnuts harvested in a basket and store in the refrigerator or freezer

For this reason, it is advisable not to store shelled purchased nuts for a long time, but to wash them in cold water, put them on a towel and dry them before use. Then you can heat the kernels in a pan or put them in a medium oven for a short time. Only then is it safe to eat. Therefore, it is best to buy freshly picked natural products, so that you yourself can dry the walnuts and prepare them for further storage. Of course, the real winners are those who can grow and enjoy their own production in the garden or front yard.

How and when to collect tree nuts

collect walnuts that have fallen to the ground in autumn and remove the green shells

Anyone who has seen walnuts grow knows that they are in the pericarp – the shell, which is green at first and then darkens. The degree of ripeness of the nut can be determined by the already shelled shell of this nut. So nuts do not ripen all at once. First ripen the lower ones and then those that grow on the upper branches of the tree. Tree nuts that have already ripened detach themselves from the branches and fall to the ground. Eventually, due to a long stay on the ground, they become damp, covered with mud and can mold. Accordingly, such pieces can not be stored for a long time, even under favorable conditions. Only then you can shake off the tree and the remaining walnuts.

gardener keeps freshly harvested walnuts with green shells


Before you can dry and store walnuts, you should free them from their green pericarp. This occupation is somewhat tedious and messy, as the epidermis can stain both your hands and clothes due to the dyes it contains. Therefore, always clean the skin with gloves before drying. If there are a lot of nuts, you can lay them out on the floor in the old fashioned way and let them dry in the fresh air. This is the best option for an abundant harvest, which can take the form of one of the following procedures.

How to dry and store walnuts outdoors

dry walnuts laid out on a tarp in the garden in sunny weather without rain

To do this, you can spread a tarp or other waterproof fabric on the ground and sprinkle the nuts in one layer. You can then leave the crop in the sun for a few days. Although this method is old and proven, sometimes it may not be entirely successful. After all, you need to be sure that in the coming days there will be no precipitation and a drop in temperature. In rainy weather, you can also dry the tree nuts in the attic, if you have one. However, such a place for drying should also be warm enough and have no moisture. In addition, you need good ventilation there.

sort out tree nuts and dry walnut kernels or eat them directly


In this method, you should clean the nuts from the fruit shell, sort them by size and wash them in cold water. Another option is to lay out the walnuts outdoors on racks with a grid so that they have access to fresh air. In this way, they can dry out well for several days. However, it is not always possible to do this in wet weather. If your harvest is not particularly rich, you can dry them indoors by spreading cloth or newspapers on the floor. The place you should also choose so that there is a constant supply of fresh air.

Drying with indoor or outdoor air

take advantage of the health benefits of walnuts prepare recipes with them daily

Air drying walnuts has two advantages: you can do it outside or inside, and the method is suitable for any amount of nuts. Here are some simple steps you can follow:

Outdoor air drying

after rich harvest dry walnuts and store on rack with grid or sieve

  • Set up a table outside in a shady place with good air circulation and cover it with a single layer of walnuts
  • Try to keep the nuts from touching each other.
  • To block moisture, drape the table with a tarp at night and when it rains.
  • Stir the nuts into the sun daily for even air exposure.

Robins, blue jays, woodpeckers and other animals like squirrels also like to snack on walnuts. Therefore, you can add plastic bird netting to keep unwanted guests away.

Indoor air drying

  • In order for you to dry and store a lot of walnuts indoors, you should choose a flat surface that is large enough to hold them.
  • In addition to wooden tables and countertops, flat cardboard boxes, seed planters and boards can be used.
  • Adding a strainer or grid eliminates the need for daily stirring.
  • Place nuts in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight, such as an enclosed porch or attic.

Net bag drying

dry walnuts in a net bag and store them outdoors or indoors for consumption

  • When dealing with a small crop, you can use a mesh bag and dry and store your walnuts in it.
  • Simply place the nuts in onion or other mesh bags and hang them in a dry, airy place.
  • Shake the bag daily to redistribute the nuts.
  • Regardless of which of the above methods you use, you should expect your walnuts to take at least two weeks to dry.

Drying walnuts in the oven

dry and store fresh walnuts on a baking tray in the oven after harvesting

Again, if you are dealing with a small crop, you can use your oven as a dehydrator to shorten the process with a few days. In addition, this is an easy and quick method of drying that can save you a lot of time. Set the oven temperature between 32.2° and 37.7 °C, spread your walnuts on flat baking sheets and heat them for 36 hours. Warning: if the temperature exceeds 50 ° C, the nuts may shrink. So, the manipulation consists of the following steps:

  • Start the drying process within 24 hours after harvesting walnuts. It is possible to dry walnuts with shell, but you can complete the drying process faster if you remove the nuts from their shell before drying.
  • So clean the blanks, remove the shell, then rinse and dry with a towel.
  • First, sort the nuts strictly by size.
  • Then put a load on a baking tray in the oven preheated to a maximum of 40-45 ° C. At this temperature, the treatment is carried out for 2-3 hours. You should leave the oven door slightly open so that moisture does not circulate in the enclosed space, but escapes.
  • About half an hour before the end you could increase the temperature to 70º С. However, in the beginning it is strongly discouraged to set the oven on high heat. Although the processing time will be shortened, the kernels will acquire an oily texture and an unpleasant aftertaste.
  • Check each nut for the degree of readiness. The edible part should break apart easily, but not crumble.
  • Allow the nuts to rest in fresh air for a few hours after processing.

Then pack the walnuts in a cloth bag for storage. The shelf life of such blanks is from one to three years. You can also store the nuts for much longer, but their taste will gradually deteriorate over time.

Tips for storage and consumption of dried walnuts.

consumption and use of tree nuts for decoration in autumn

As described above, fresh walnuts, keep one to three years in the shell, properly dried. The latter acts as a natural protective barrier. Once shelled, the oils in walnuts usually turn rancid quickly. So freshly shelled nuts should either be eaten right away or stored in the refrigerator or freezer for best quality. Walnuts should keep for six months in the refrigerator and certainly a year in the freezer.

wild animals like squirrels like to eat walnuts in autumn

If you’ve had a chance to compare the taste of freshly shelled and pre-shelled nuts, you’ll know that this should probably be the case. Many stores knock down products pretty quickly. However, nuts from the store are generally not optimally processed and not particularly fresh. It is safe to eat raw walnuts, but you can take the time to prepare crunchy walnuts and enjoy your own harvest following the methods described.