It's time to grab the family and kids, a truck and some good five-gallon buckets and fill them with this year's black walnut harvest.
According to Hammons Products Company of Stockton, Mo., the tennis-ball-sized nuts are going for $13 per hundred pounds after hulling. The opening day for hulling was Oct. 1.
Black walnut trees grow wild everywhere in the Ozarks. That's why both Missouri and Arkansas have the best crops in the nation.
Both old-timers and the new generation remember picking up walnuts when they were kids along with the rest of their family in the crisp, cool autumn air. People could smell the strong odor of the walnuts as they picked them up and the harvesters would have black and green colored hands afterwards. They made it a fall event and families today still do the same thing.
The Huetts located on Fawnwood Road in Elizabeth, five miles west of Viola, have been in the hulling business for 11 years. They are one of 250 hulling stations in the nation. According to Joel Huett, the family gets about 170,000 pounds per year of walnuts. He said in their biggest year they had 198,000 pounds. "Some people think we'll have our biggest year this year," Huett said. The heavy rains the area had in the spring might encourage the trees to produce more walnuts, he said.
According to Huett, the shelling station at Hammons Products Company in Stockton can only handle about 20-22 million pounds of walnuts per season. When the company receives around 20 million pounds, they will lower the asking price for walnuts.
The Huett family not only hulls for the Hammons Product Company, but they also sell nut meats by the pound at $10.95 and they sell Nut Wizards for the elderly and for people who have trouble bending down and picking up walnuts. The device allows people of all ages to contribute to the walnut harvest season.
Walnuts, along with other nuts, not only taste scrumptious in baked goods but they are also healthy. Walnuts are the second leading nut, next to pecans, with the most antioxidents. Many scientists believe that antioxidents help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
In some instances, walnuts are not only wanted for their meat, but also for their shell. The shell has many different uses. It can be used as an ornament, such as a Christmas decoration or in jewelry, or it can be pulverized and the oil that comes from it can be used as an organic cleaner for jet engines. The shells are also used in drilling oil wells and as abrasives in soaps.
The softer outer hull of the walnut is also useful. "We use if for fertilizer," Sarah Huett said. "We have a couple of ladies who come out and get some for their roses."
"We always look forward to (the walnut season)," Joel Huett said, as his kids, Perri, Luke, Caleb and Andrew played around on the walnut sacks and helped their parents.
Huett said because it is a short season of about six weeks, they stay open seven days a week. Though the station opens at 1 p.m., Huett said they will open the station up at a different time if the time is inconvenient for their customers.
For those who need to find a walnut buyer in their area, go to www.black-walnut.com to find the nearest buyer and their contact information.