First you have to start with the walnut where it falls from the tree encased in a fleshy green shell. The shell then has to kind of rot off or be broken off (many old timers would run the green version over with a tractor to break apart the outside casing). Then you are left with what actually looks like the outside of a walnut, but the chore is not over. This hard walnut shell has to be cracked open, no easy chore, I mean that very seriously. At our house we do this with a sledge hammer or a serious vice. After husking and cracking the walnut open you will usually have brown stain on your hands (I believe this is actually what was used in the old days for furniture stain) You then have the joy of picking those little pieces of nut flesh out of the hard shell. This takes hours. My children spent a few hours a week for weeks to procure a quart sized jar full of black walnuts for Christmas gifts last year. It is definitely a winter indoor chore!
I only remember having a couple of black walnut trees in our woods. We kept watch because the squirrels would beat us to the walnuts if they were not picked up soon after dropping. In the fall it was a familiar sight to see the farm boys come to school with dark brown stains on their hands. It was the boys job to take the green and blackened husks off the fallen walnuts. This was usually done by using a hammer or wooden mallet. The outside coating stained whatever it touched. After the husks were removed the walnuts were laid to try and later stored in a shed to finish.
We had a piece of railroad iron that we laid the walnut on to crack. My dad would take a dish pan to the wood shed and come back with a pan full of cracked walnuts; it was then our job to pick the nuts out of the shells. If you cracked it just right you could remove a whole section in just one piece.
I don’t remember ever eating just the nuts; we always saved them to be put in cookies, cake, or my mother’s special fudge. Black walnuts have a much stronger flavor than an English walnut; today they are very expensive to buy.
I also remember that when I was in high school the boys would make belts for the girls out of walnuts. The dried walnuts were sawed into thin slices. Using leather string the circles were then fastened together forming a belt.
I had no idea you could make a belt out of walnut shells! I google searched for images and this is what I came up with: