Black walnuts grow all over the place in the parks and residential neighborhoods of DC. They have distinctive leaves and very distinctive green fruits:
If left on the tree, each green globe will turn into a woody, gnarled black walnut surrounded by a mottled green and brown leathery husk that can be peeled away with a little effort. But right now they’re still in the green stage, where the whole fruit is one cohesive whole. Slice one of these in half, and it’s just a lot of pith surrounding the beginnings of the edible nut (see right).
This is the stage where, theoretically, one can make the Italian liqueur known as nocino. I’ve never personally tasted it, but the description on food blogs sounded intriguing. So when I saw some low-hanging green (black) walnuts on a recent walk in a local park, I picked eight of them and started a batch of nocino. I used the proportions in this recipe, more or less. I only had 80-proof vodka instead of the recommended 100-proof (some recipes even suggest using grain alcohol), so my liqueur will be less alcoholic than I guess nocino is supposed to be.
But it’ll be fun to see what the flavor turns out to be. The green walnuts themselves had a heady, almost minty smell, so I think the liqueur could be very tasty. The chemicals in the walnuts will also eventually turn the whole brew a rich brown color – dark enough to stain anything it touches, apparently. But for now the mixture is clear and beautiful. I’ll report on the finished results in a month or two!