It's walnut picking time and the overall crop in Dent County and many areas of the Ozarks appears to be decent, according to the Hammons Products Company representative Brian Hammonds.
Black Walnut harvest began Oct. 1 statewide.
The walnut crop appears to be average to above average this year, better than last year's off-year crop. Hammonds, Stockton, is projecting 20 to 25 million pounds of walnuts to be harvested this season.
Opening price will be up slightly over last year. The market price is 12 cents a pound for hulled nuts, up from 11 cents last year. If the weather in October is good, the crop may a little more than estimated.
Missouri is its largest supplier.
The Hammonds survey team has been busy looking at trees in the 15-state buying region and signing huller operators for this year's harvest. With the leaves beginning to thin, the nuts are shining up even better - at least on the trees that have them.
Despite the short crop projected, the carry-in supply is good, so consumers will have plenty of wild, natural Black Walnut nutmeats for the fall and throughout 2012.
Black Walnuts are harvested by hand from yards and pastures. Those nuts are taken to one of 220 buying stations, each with a "hulling machine" to remove the outside hull before the nuts are weighed and the harvester is paid.
This will be Hammonds 66th harvest since Ralph Hammons started buying Black Walnuts from his grocery store in 1946.
Buying began Oct. 1 at Salem's MFA Farmers Exchange on Highway 32 East and other buying stations in 15 states. Buying continues through end of the month.
Hulling hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. For more information contact the local buying station at 729-6614.
Missouri will be the largest area, with about half the locations. The state usually produces about 65 percent of the total harvest.
Hammons encourages walnut sellers to get an early start on the season. The earlier the walnuts are picked up, the better the quality of the nutmeat. It's to the seller's advantage too, because moisture content is higher and they weigh more.
Uses for walnuts continue to grow. Besides being a popular ingredient in baked goods, ice cream and salads, walnut wood is in high demand by the furniture manufacturing industry. According to Hammons, a market has also developed for the nutshell, such as abrasives for cleaning, paint removal, to strengthen sealants, as a filtering agent and an ingredient in cosmetics.
For more information and recipes for black walnuts, visit the Hammons website http://www.black-walnuts.com or call 1-888-4BW-NUTS.