The black walnut (Juglans nigra) can be hard to miss at this time of year—or to mistake for anything else. There are other regional trees with pinnate leaves that have a similar appearance but as we move toward fall, an abundance of yellowish-green “tennis balls”—the fallen fruits—covers the ground around the base of black walnut trees.
I adore black walnut’s edible nutmeat—it has a richer, more complex flavor than the supermarket variety European walnut. Nutritionally, black walnuts are dense with proteins and essential fatty acids, wonderful for heart health. But the prized meats are nestled deep inside those greenish balls, and it takes a bit of effort to tease out the nut meat.