Thankfully, I have my own walnut tree, which I have luckily been able to reshape into an actual tree rather than letting the local “arborists” continue to butcher it into a sad, ugly twig-like thing. For a while, it alternatively looked like an overgrown shrub with leafy English walnut branches on the top and black walnut on the bottom until I learned out to properly trim it. Three years ago, we got only six walnuts and thirteen the following year. Last autumn, I picked over five gallons worth (about two minus husks). Unfortunately due to holiday preparations and other obligations, I could not take care of all of them before they started getting buggy, so I left the unprocessed ones out for neighborhood crows. (I do not recommend this. Leaving the nuts out was a big mistake, since the crows have chased away many other birds. I sincerely hope they have not crammed walnuts between my roof shingles and buried more in the backyard. Note to self: Make time in autumn to process all of the nuts. I might have to minimize the work with a walnut shucking party.)

Edit: This year, the walnuts are huge, about the size of small apples. I hope this means the nuts actually have more meat and not just thicker husks. There are possibly more walnuts this year, too. It looks like the crows are already testing them for ripeness. I noticed some of the walnuts on the tree have large gouges in their skins. I’m going to have to get new gloves for harvesting, and I might try a double layer of gloves this time to avoid staining my hands black.

Double Walnut Tree

As black walnuts are readily available during the autumn harvest season and I had not worked with them before, I was feeling daring and thought I would give them a try. If you are up for a challenge, go for it, but be forewarned: black walnuts are much harder to open than their English cousins, and I recommend using a vice to avoid powdering the meat when trying to remove it from the shells. The labor and time are well-worth the tasty flavor provided by this native variety. Alternatively, you can also buy shelled chopped black walnuts at the store when they are in season. If you are lucky enough to end up with lots of nuts, you can always freeze them for later.

I made a delicious carrot pineapple poke cake as an alternative to chocolate for a friend’s recent holiday party. The original recipe was very glutenous and scrumptious, but I have included a gluten-free vegan version below. If you want frost the cake bars, please see the frosting recipe link below.

Carrot Pineapple Cake Bars

Carrot Pineapple Poke Cake Bars
Adapted from Carrot & Spice Bars in The Great American Cookie Cookbook by Publications International.
Originally posted in February 2016 at Three Chicks Talking About Food.

Yields 40 – 50 Bars

Ingredients
1 C Unsweetened Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1/4 C Earth Balance
1 C Oat Bran
2 T Flax or Chia Seeds, course ground
6 – 8 T Filtered Water or Pineapple Juice, room temperature
2 1/2 C Pureed Carrot
3/4 C Grated or Pureed Carrot
1/3 C Chopped Raisins
1/3 C Crushed Pineapple, optional
1 tsp Orange Zest
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 C Gluten-Free All Purpose or Oat Flour
2 tsp Xanthan Gum
3/4 C Evaporated Cane Juice or Sucanat
1 tsp Baking Soda
2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2 C Pineapple Juice
Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting, optional
1/4 C Prepared Chopped Black or English Walnuts

Directions
In a small bowl, thoroughly beat the ground seeds into six tablespoons of the juice. Set aside for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes to prevent clumping. If the “eggs” are too thick, stir in more juice or water, one tablespoon at a time.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and dust 9-inch by 13-inch glass baking dish. Set aside.

In a sauce pan over medium-low heat, simmer the non-dairy milk and spread until the spread completely melts, stirring often. Remove from heat. Stir in the oat bran and set aside for 5 minutes to absorb some of the liquid. Whisk in the “chia eggs.” Add the carrots, raisins, zest, crushed pineapple (if desired), and vanilla.

Combine the flour, gum, sugar, soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add in the carrot mixture, using an electric mixer to thoroughly incorporate the ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, spreading it evenly with a rubber spatula.

Bake the cake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and the cake edges come away from the sides of the dish. Remove from heat. Poke the cake across the top with a fork in one-inch intervals. Pour on the juice evenly over the top. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Frost if desired. Sprinkle on the nuts, and lightly press them into the cake. Slice the cake into bars about one by two inches big. Serve and enjoy!

Moist Carrot Cake

This cake is very moist. Store it in a well-sealed container in the refrigerator.