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I bought a bag of walnuts from the local farmers market (in NZ), but some of them are dark colored on the outside and almost black inside. Is this normal and are they ok to eat?

Also noticed some of them are slightly open.

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I'm not sure what causes it and what food safety issues may be involved but FWIW I used to have a walnut tree and got a few from time to time that looked like that. I had a small taste once and they were really bad, not worth keeping. I'd put it down to some sort of rot, I live in Tasmania with a relatively similar climate. –  PeterJ Nov 16 '13 at 6:13
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@PeterJ I grew up in a very different climate (Des Moines, Iowa) and I also had a walnut tree. I concur, walnuts that have turned black are not worth eating. The squirrels liked them though. –  Jolenealaska Nov 16 '13 at 6:22
    
@PeterJ maybe you should consider turning your comment into an answer –  ashes999 Nov 16 '13 at 19:01
    
In my experience, walnuts get progressively more bitter as they darken, and black ones are inedible due to poor taste. I haven't noticed any ill effects from consuming slightly darker ones though (not moldy ones of course). –  Mischa Arefiev Nov 16 '13 at 19:25

1 Answer 1

I'm not sure what causes it and what food safety issues may be involved but I used to have a walnut tree and got a few from time to time that looked like that. I had a small taste once and they were really bad, not worth keeping. I'd put it down to some sort of rot and I live in Tasmania with a relatively similar climate.

Looking for a reference on common causes the best I've been able to find is from "Diseases of Temperate Zone Tree Fruit and Nut Crops" by Joseph M. Ogawa and Harley English that has a section on kernel mold of the English Walnut, which I'm guessing is the most common variety in New Zealand. This is from a Google book preview that I can't copy / paste so I'm skipping over some parts probably not relevant using an ellipsis:

Under certain conditions several fungi are able to penetrate the walnut shell and cause cause a moldy condition of the kernel. This disorder varies from year to year depending on environmental factors. The invading fungi commonly coat the kernels (...) and also may form masses of greenish blue or grayish-black spores. (...)

The weakly pathogenic fungi that cause kernal mold belong to genera such as Aspergillus, Penicillium, Alternaria, and Rhizopus. These organisms may invade the nuts as early as midsummer if the hulls (husks) have been damaged by sunburn, drought or husk fly.

The book is available for limited preview / purchase for anyone further interested in the topic, but I think the short answer is they'll taste nasty (regardless of any safety issues) so probably best disposed of and maybe complain to the supplier if you got too many in that state and ask for their comment.

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