This is the fruit of the black walnut tree (Juglans nigra). I picked it up last weekend while cycling with Tim Pearce and his wife Alice Doolittle. We passed by many of them on the ground. I had never eaten one and Tim was quite enthusiastic about its flavor and gave me directions on how to get the kernel out. So I decided to give it a try. I took this one and a walnut that Tim got out of the fruit by crushing it under his shoe.
I left both in a plastic bag on a table out on my deck Friday night. Saturday morning, the bag was on the floor and the intact fruit pictured above was gone. The possible suspects were: a. A neighbor; b. A neighborhood cat; c. A neighborhood squirrel. Need I give the correct answer? I scoured the backyard for remnants of the fruit, but found none.
Luckily the walnut, which had been deep inside the bag, was not taken. First, I scraped off some of the black stuff around it.
Then I cracked it open with a hammer. Tim had warned me that the shell was hard. It indeed was much harder than the shell of the commercial walnut (Juglans regia).
The kernel appeared "juicier" (actually oilier) than that of the commercial walnut. It also had a stronger aroma that was surprisingly familiar. Then I remembered why. Some years ago I used to use make a pudding flavored with imitation black walnut extract. I still have the bottle.
The flavoring ingredients are listed as "Ethyl valerate and other esters. Oil valerian and other essential oils". I don't know if any of those are actually found in the real black walnut.
I enjoyed the black walnut and will probably eat it again.