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Popular Nut Trees - Black Walnut Tree and Walnut Pie

The story of the black walnut is almost the story of the original pioneers that came to this country in that both were rugged and all but gaunt in the bare days of freezing winters.  Yet, the black walnut by spring and summer is and always was an airy gracefully and symmetrical contrast in beauty.  Indeed, the black walnut tree has its own moods throughout the four seasons, yet at the same time it never loses all that makes it one of the all time great American trees.

Black Walnut

Black Walnut

The black walnut tree is a powerful individualist, native to eastern, central and southern states.  Unlike the pecan tree — it had and still has its enemies — mankind because black walnut is one of the most notable and desired furniture and cabinet-making woods known to mankind.  You can’t really blame the cabinet makers of the pioneer days coveting its deep brown color, coarse grained hard and sweet aromatic finish.  Sadly, mankind was destroying this valuable tree long before cabinet makers discovered it.  During the colonial era it was one of the most destroyed in land clearing for new settlers eager to start their own farms. 

In fact, the black walnut tree population was nearly endangered.  It is difficult in modern times to imagine, but those old growth black walnut trees lost during colonial times were over eighty years old.  The black walnut has ever since then regained even a portion of its woodland in number.

Black walnut trees can grow to an astounding one hundred and fifty feet high.  They generally grow quite straight up, and can be as large as eight feet in diameter near the bottom.  However, today people seldom will encounter a black walnut more than one hundred feet tall.  The lower branches are horizontal and wide spreading.  However, the upper branches tend to grow more upward at sharper and sharper angles until you reach the crown of the tree.

Black Walnut Fruits before removing husk.

Black Walnut Fruits before removing husk.

The black walnut fruits are among the richest in flavor and health benefits among American nut trees.  Each walnut that falls from the tree is covered by a thick, pulpy green husk which completely hide the nut (fruit) of the black walnut.    Speaking as someone who once lived on seven hundred acres in the backwoods of West Virginia among a large stand of black walnut trees the most important message I can give to anyone planting black walnut trees for the first time is to remember that these trees get quite large and that you should never ever plant them too close to any building or your house.  The reason is simple — in the fall you’ll be listening to black walnut tree fruits crashing upon the roof.  For the same reason you also should be mindful walking beneath them during the autumn months without a crash helmet.

Another reason to love the popular black walnut tree is the nut fruits in terms of baking.  Here is my family’s favorite Black Walnut Pie recipe.

Simple Black Walnut Pie


1 cup sugar

6 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 beaten egg yolks

2 cups whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons butter

1 cup black walnut meats finely chopped

1 Graham Cracker Pie Shell


  • Sift sugar, flour and alt together and add to beaten egg yolks and cook in double boiler until thickened.
  • Add vanilla and butter.
  • Cool.
  • Add nut meats and pour into Graham cracker pie shell.

Makes 1 nine inch pie.

*Making a meringue topping is often an option with this recipe, although it is perfectly acceptable to simply buy other ready made toppings.

If You’d Like To Know More About Planting Black Walnut Trees!