Garden Calendar: Black walnuts, forestry research topics of upcoming workshop

Although a single black walnut tree in an urban yard might seem to have little value for anyone but the squirrels, black walnuts are valuable for both lumber and nut production when properly managed.

To share information about black walnut production, the Kansas Chapter of the Walnut Council is sponsoring a field day at the Kansas State University Forestry Research Center near Manhattan on June 1.

The workshop begins at 9 a.m., includes lunch, and is only $12 to attend. Registration information is available at K-State Research and Extension–Douglas County, 2110 Harper, by calling 843-7058 or by visiting

Black walnut is a good crop for our area because of its tolerance for local soil and weather conditions. The tree is native to the eastern half of Kansas.

For those with a sweet tooth, one of the highlights of the day is a session on black walnuts in sugar cookies, with samples promised.

The purpose of the session is explaining recent research conducted through K-State’s Sensory and Consumer Research Center located in Olathe. The study — aimed at helping producers determine what cultivars to grow and with increasing black walnut marketability — polled participants on liking and flavor intensity of various black walnut cultivars.

The real meat of the workshop is a session on cultivar selection with K-State horticulture professor Bill Reid. Reid conducts research on black walnuts and pecans at the K-State Pecan Experiment Field in Chetopa and is the nut crops specialist for both Kansas and Missouri. He is nationally recognized for his work with black walnut and pecan.

As may be expected, the workshop includes additional sessions on management of black walnut stands and on a disease that threatens our borders from the west.

In addition to black walnut information, K-State horticulture professors Rhonda Janke and Charles Barden will share information on shiitake mushrooms and hybrid poplars.

Janke is working with K-State students to produce shiitake mushrooms on inoculated logs at the forestry research center. Shiitake mushrooms are native to Asia and have long been produced in protected forest environments. As the mushrooms’ popularity in the U.S. has grown, so have production and interest. Missouri’s Agroforestry Research Center has been studying shiitake mushrooms since the early 2000s.

There is also evidence that shiitakes are a good crop for this area, as Oak Ridge Farm near Baldwin City has been producing them for several years.

Barden’s hybrid poplar research is examining the potential for the trees’ use in phytoremediation and biomass energy production. Phytoremediation is the use of plants to treat environmental problems. Barden is primarily interested in hybrid poplars ability to remove pollutants from contaminated soil and ground water.

Eating black walnuts is even better than growing them — the University of Missouri says the nuts are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, high in fiber, cholesterol-free, and contain other acids and phytochemicals known to decrease the risk of cancer, heart disease and blood clots.

Since the nuts typically have a strong flavor, incorporating them into recipes with other foods is recommended. The sugar cookies sound like a good way to indulge and hopefully help a local farmer.