I was first introduced to the Black Walnut tree during a genealogical trip to northern Arkansas. The name caught my imagination, and I used it in the Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series. The small town of Amaryllis AR, struggling to stay alive after its main industry pulled out, holds various festivals throughout the year and depends on tourists to keep the economy afloat. One of the events is the Black Walnut Cake Festival. If you’re interested in baking your own, here is a recipe.
Black Walnut trees are among the 100 most common species of North American trees. The average height is about 70 feet, but they can grow as tall as 150 feet and have a spread of 60-80 feet.
Since their native habitat is the eastern and central parts of the United States, they are found in Arkansas. Because the wood is fine and straight-grained, it’s often used for gun stocks and furniture.
Visit my Pinterest board for pictures of the tree and the nut it produces.
Here’s a teaser from Book 1 of the series, The Bogus Biker, in which black walnuts play a pivotal role that has nothing to do with the stomach!
When the man stopped behind the waist high marker, Penelope could see it clearly. When the small weeping angel on top had broken off years ago, Travis’s mother had done what she could to mend it with mortar she’d mixed herself. It perched there still, slightly askew. Was it loose? Penelope extended her fingers to touch it.
I have to use both hands, and I can’t hit him in the…I can’t hit him there. I have to get it over my head into his face, and I have to do it hard enough to startle him into letting me go. Then I’ll run into the woods, to the ruins of the old cabin. Maybe I can find the root cellar and…
“Come on, Bart, let me see you.”
Something flew toward them, landing to the right. Another missile landed on the left. Penelope could feel the man moving his head from side to side.
Black walnuts. Sam’s throwing black walnuts. I know where he is now.
Left, right, left right, the nuts continued to fly, some landing with no sound on the grass, but others pinging against the tombstones.
Keep on, Sam. You’ve got him spooked now. He’s not holding onto me so tight. Crossing herself mentally and uttering a prayer to St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes, Penelope lunged for the weeping angel and felt it fall away from the stone into her waiting hands. Raising it over her head, she thrust it backward in one swift motion. The man howled in pain. She was free.
Penelope began to sprint toward the fence. I can make the hurdle. I can do it. Daddy’s watching. He took off from work just to make this track meet. He’ll be so proud of me if I just make this last hurdle. She fell to her knees as she vaulted across the fence, but she was up and running again before she took time to catch her breath. The tennis shoes flopped but held to her feet. She’d twisted her left knee, but she was alive. If she had any chance to stay that way, she had to keep going. She heard the gunshot behind her, but she didn’t look back.
The Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series is available for Kindle and in print from Amazon as individual books and as a boxed set.