Getting to the meat of black walnuts and removing mildew's scent from mattresses

Q. I have been trying for a long time to figure out how to get the meat (easily) from the black walnut. Can you find out? No one seems to know.

- G.P.,

Montague, Calif.

A. "It's impossible to shell a black walnut 'easily,' " says David Steinmuller, sales marketing manager for Hammons, a sheller and processor of black walnuts. "It has a thick, strong shell, so it needs to be crushed." (In industrial black walnut shelling, large quantities of nuts are crushed between two giant steel rollers.) You can smash black walnuts with hammers, or hand-squeeze nutcrackers.

Alternatively, if you have a vise, you can try this method, suggested on Tom Clothier's Garden Walk and Talk Web site at

While holding the widest part of the nut between the middle finger and thumb, place the nut between the vise jaws end to end. Apply pressure until the shell only just breaks, then use electrician's wire cutters to cut shell and release meat in solid pieces. Most of your cuts should be to the outer portion of the shell from the blunt end of the nut. You can vibrate the nut-meats on a screen to be sure to get rid of all shell debris. It may sound like a major operation, but it works.

Q. One of our bedrooms has a musty smell - even though there is no apparent water leakage. It is above the basement which can be damp - the mattresses on the beds smell dreadfully of mildew - I have washed the surfaces with Clorox and sprayed liberally with Lysol spray but to no avail. Can you suggest a remedy?

- D.B.,

Harvard, Mass.

A. "If bleach and Lysol spray are ineffective, the only way to rid your mattresses of the odors they have absorbed is by airing and drying," says Ted Johnson at the Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse in Washington, D.C. After the surfaces of the mattresses have been disinfected, you should remove them to a well-ventilated, dry area or take them outside.

You can reduce humidity and increase air flow with fans, dehumidifiers, and air conditioners. The mattresses have to be exposed to a high degree of air movement to dry thoroughly. Mildew organisms thrive on dampness.

If they still smell, then the mattresses have probably succumbed to a moldy state. Unfortunately, the most practical course, in this case, is to throw them away.

If you want more information, visit the the US Environmental Protection Agency's Web site at

Also, you should consider the source of the dampness. Two previous "Resident Expert" columns published on July 1 and July 22 offered solutions to dealing with damp basements.

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