I don’t think I’ve had anyone who has walked the margins of our pasture in autumn recognize these fruits. They are oblong ending with a sharp point, and somewhat resemble hickory nuts, but they have a soft rather than a stony-hard shell which is decidedly sticky when they first fall. Scratching them does not give off any clues as to their relationships.
This is White Walnut, or Butternut, so called for the oils of the nuts which was used to make a butter-like food by native Americans. Of course it is a close relative of the more common Black Walnut, which volunteers in abundance along the forest edge and the gravel road. (The nuts are dehisced and cracked by the few passing cars, then the crows, waiting for just such help, come down from their perches to eat the exposed pieces.)
You don’t see Butternuts so often in these woods. It is susceptible to a pathogen (a fungus that causes canker and slow death) but we have several that are large enough to produce fruits like you see here, gathered from five square feet along our pasture trail. There are so many in places hidden in the tall pasture grass that it is hard to walk.
I confess we’ve never collected, dried, cracked, picked out and eaten any. I think this year may be our first. I’ll give you a taste test report towards the end of the year.
The wood is soft and not sought out for furniture, but is prized by wood carvers, i understand, so will save my bowl-turning friends a piece, should we have a large limb blow down over winter.