The Butternut (Juglans cinerea)

Butternut (Juglans cinerea) has a lot of uses.


Recently we investigated a tree that grows in our yard, and found out that it is a butternut. Our oldest daughter first identified the tree using a Peterson Field Guide, then searched through three reference books to find out its uses.  Below are her findings as well as the sources she used.

butternut leaves2

Butternut (Juglans cinerea)

Description and general information:

Butternut (Juglans cinerea), also known as White Walnut, has narrow, toothed feather-compound leaves and usually shows an end leaflet as seen above, as opposed to Black Walnut, which often lacks the end leaflet.  An image of the bark can be found below, while an image of the fruit is featuredbutternut bark.

Butternuts provide protein, iron and magnesium and linolenic and linoleic oil (both essential oils).  They have the lowest carbohydrate content of all nuts, only 3%, thus are ideal for people on a low-carbohydrate diet.

When you collect butternuts, do not remove the husk.  Dry the nuts in a roasting pan in the oven at the lowest possible setting with the door ajar, or in the sun.  This way the husks shrink to nothing, the nuts ripen, and you avoid insect infestation.


  • Butternut can be used in every kind of nut recipe, for example ground into meal and used in breads, pie crusts and pastries.  (Brill)
  • The Indians used to roast the nuts, then boiled the crushed nut meat and finally skimmed off the oil that rose to the surface which they used like butter; hence the name.  (Brill)
  • 2 tsp of ground butternut mixed into hot oatmeal corrects constipation and other intestinal problems.  (Heinerman)
  • Boiling the soft, half-ripe fruit will make a yellow-brown dye, while the husks and the inner bark can be used to make a dark stain, used by the American colonists for uniform dye.  (Peterson)
  • In spring, the sap can be boiled down to make syrup.  (Peterson)



  • Peterson Field Guides: Eastern Trees. New York, 1988, p. 235.
  • Brill, Steve: Edible and Medicinal Plants. New York, 1994, p. 163-165
  • Heinerman, John: Heinerman’s Encyclopedia of Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs.  New York, 1988, p. 231-232.

4 comments on “The Butternut (Juglans cinerea)”

  1. Butternut (white walnut) was famously used to dye soldier’s uniforms during the civil war. I tried using butternut as a dye but the color was virtually imperceptible. Something else needs to be added to bring out a darker color but I can’t remember what it is exactly.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The husks and the inner bark were used for the darker uniform dye, it says in the Peterson, but no other ingredient is mentioned.


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