Things to do with baby black walnuts

I have a thing. A colour thing. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before. It’s a visceral reaction to all things pigmented. Much like when around someone you love you want to shower them with hugs and pet their hair (if I’ve ever petted your hair absent-mindedly now you know why), with colours I want to roll around in them. You know, like a dog does with mud, or a cat does with catnip or like the poet Rumi did with God. It’s usually red and majorelle blue. Occasionally it’s terracotta and magenta. The other day it was something green.

My friend Emily and I had made nocino. It was a fun afternoon inspired by chancing upon some early baby black walnuts (which, for the record, are no longer early, and if you act swiftly you might still catch them). She’d tasted it and loved it; I had not. But given their abundance, my undying love of cooking with wild things, and despite my skepticism over something so vile smelling could eventually taste good, we jumped in. Which is where the green comes in.

Lovely readers, this stuff is stunning. Within a few hours of mixing the ingredients together, the jars, if set along a window sill, will cast a shade of green so unearthly upon your space that you too will want to roll around in it until all that’s left is an alien-coloured splotch on the tablecloth. I restrained myself and stared instead, for hours on end.

We’re supposed to wait at least 6 months to taste it, so I’ll be sure to come back and tell you guys how it is (possibly tugging along a hangover while I’m at it). But in the meantime, if you’d like to make it too, here’s what to do:

Go and find some black walnut trees, and gather as many of the little baby fruits as you can. (for information on how to find and ID black walnuts see Butter’s lovely post on it HERE)

Pick up a big bottle of vodka, some sugar, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla.

Clean out some big mason jars.

And then in 6 months, when the nights are drawing long, and a chill has set in, we can all gather in a big interweb living room by an ifire and have a nocino party. Sound good? Thought so…


From David Lebovitz

Per every 30 green walnuts, quartered

1 litre vodka

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 sticks cinnamon

10 cloves

1/2 vanilla bean

1 lemon zest (use a potato peeler)

Put all the dry ingredients in a big jar, and pour the vodka over the top. Shake (once the lid is on), then set aside. You’re supposed to shake it every day, but according to Emily, it’s nicer if you only shake it every few days. And you don’t have to twist my arm to remember to do less. Leave it in a cool dark place for 2 months, then strain and bottle. It’ll be ready to drink after 6 months, though I’ve heard that the older it gets, the nicer it gets… 

  • Butter

    Thanks to your sending me tiny green walnuts, I’ve got a batch of my own brewing. I’ve added a few coffee beans to my brew. Mmmm. I’m willing to wait for that sort of goodness. There is something so great about remembering spring in the midst of a winter snowstorm.

  • Rosalee de la Foret

    Your witty writing skills and your obvious love of plants make me wish I had a black walnut tree growing near me! Thanks for sharing! You write one of my favorite blogs.

    • fairybekk

      <3 thank you Rosalee.

  • Marlene

    This nocino concoction sounds so weird and crazy I might just have to try it – soon! I can’t imagine what it will taste like. That is a beautiful green!

  • Whitney Nožisková

    nocino. this is something i’d not heard of before (i sort of pride myself on knowledge of this sort of thing). i just had to look it up! apparently there’s a whole italian festival in its honor, must keep this in mind shall i ever be contemplating modena in july!

    and oh my, that is indeed a delectable, thirst-quenching, *unreal* green! x

  • Heidi (AlpineGypsy)

    Oh. My. Goodness.

    That green. Doesn’t it just make you salivate? I’ve never run across a more interesting liqueur recipe, that is for sure! I do not believe that Black Walnuts grow in my neck of the woods (West Coast of BC, Canada) as I’ve never seen them either in cultivation or the wild. But perhaps I need to explore this a bit more before I can truly say they don’t……

    Do you know if this would be possible with regular green walnuts? We happen to have a large, century-old tree adjacent to our house. It still produces walnuts, however the squirrels seem to be so much better at gathering them than we are! Maybe I can grab a handful before they do….

    I cannot imagine what kind of unctuous, nutty yumminess this turns into after a few dark months in the cupboard….forgotten until mid-Winter. I imagine sitting next to a good fire in the stove, a cat wrapped around my feet, sipping a thimbleful and contemplating Spring. Divine!

    And I agree with Rosalee, this is one of my favourite blogs also!


    • fairybekk

      Heidi! Use regular walnuts- that’s what the original recipe uses! They just don’t grow here :).

      • Heidi (AlpineGypsy)

        Woohoo! Will do, and thank you!!!!

    • Quinn

      Heidi, I’m in the Kootenays and we have a lot of black walnut. They’re so hard to crack I’m ecstatic that this is showing another way to use them!

    • Katharina

      of course walnuts of all varieties grow in BC I lived there for years,so I’d know All over the mainland

  • Michael Blackmore

    Oh, I’m with you on the colors aspect. I never tire of some of the brilliant hues that emerge in some tinctures when I make them.

  • Quinn

    I’m wondering how big your ‘baby’ walnuts are? I’m in British Columbia, and our growing season is behind yours. I tried this recipe using walnuts only 2 cm long (they are elongated at this point, not round like they will be). I was lacking the lemon zest and vanilla bean but gave it a try anyway. It did turn colour, but I did not get the gorgeous green, and I’m not sure if that’s due to age of walnuts or lack of lemon. Also, they smelled rather nice instead of yucky as indicated by the article.

    I’m really hoping to get this right eventually – thank you for such an interesting recipe!

  • Kristi Shapla

    I like to infuse green walnuts in witch hazel distillate for an amazing topical anti-fungal!

  • Cat

    OH WOW! This is great. I can’t wait to try it!

    • fairybekk

      Thanks Cat!

  • Raptorrunner

    Hey I read your blog and had to check on our walnuts. June 30 and my walnuts were still cutable. Whew!

    The next night I went out and gathered enough for nocino! I’m excited. I love making stuff like this and have been making herbal liqueurs for years. Thanks for a new recipe!

  • Janet Smith

    Wish I had seen this earlier…I have several Black walnut trees in my yard and we have always hated them because they are so messy…nuts all over and the squirrels hide them in everything….next year I will know what to do with them!!

    Thanks so much I will try this…Love your site!


  • katinka

    I have a complaint… I usually don’t get lost in blogs and I’ve procrastinated half of my study time away today because of your wonderful blog!! I am usually very disciplined so congratulations for writing so well and about such interesting things that I lost myself for hours in your beautiful world.


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  • Edgar

    I have a few mature black walnut trees and I hate them I can give you as many walnuts you want a full pick up truck loaded. Is just to much to clean… every year and the grass and driveway is driving me nuts.

  • Seonag

    Have just found your wonderful blog! It contains so many interesting topics, near and deat to my heart. We have black walnut trees on the farm we will be moving to later this year so very excited to find uses for the nuts. Tell me how the final nocino tasted? Was it worth the wait? The colors nature produces are amazing. Love your blog!!