70 Years of Black Walnuts

Posted August 11, 2016

Few companies can trace their history back 70 years. And even fewer can trace their product back hundreds, if not thousands of years.

But Hammons Products Company has always been out of the ordinary.

Hammons Black Walnuts have been wild, all natural, hand foraged, locally sourced, non-GMO, and sustainable since before these traits were trendy. And it was before anyone realized the true importance of these characteristics in food.

Ralph Hammons had a pretty good idea. In 1946, he owned a small grocery store in Stockton, Missouri. He understood the love his customers had for these nutritious, tasty nutmeats in cooking and baking. He also saw the bounty of Black Walnuts that grew wild all around the Ozarks and Midwest. So Ralph bought a nut-cracking machine and a product company was born.

That first year, Ralph Hammons bought and cracked 100,000 pounds of Black Walnuts. By the late 1940s and early 1950s, the “Missouri Dandy” brand was launched, the cracking machine has been redesigned for custom use, and a new plant was built down the road in Stockton. Ralph Hammons also discovered the tough, ground Black Walnut shell could be used in packing dynamite and polishing chrome for automobiles.

Over the years the Hammons company experienced growth and a sense of community with the hardworking folks of the Midwest. In 1961, Stockton’s annual Black Walnut Festival began on the town square. In the 1970s, Ralph’s son, Dwain Hammons assumed leadership of the company, and Dwain’s wife Donna launched the Missouri Dandy Pantry retail brand. And in 1997, the company’s leadership role was passed to their son, Brian Hammons.

Now celebrating its 70th anniversary, Hammons Products Company remains a family-owned, family-run business based in Stockton, Missouri, and the nation’s primary processor, distributor, and marketer of Black Walnuts. Although the company has expanded to nationwide distribution, harvesting and hulling of the wild nuts has remained virtually unchanged. Hammons purchases wild, hand-harvested nuts through 215 hulling stations across 11 states, and cracks and shells nearly 25 million pounds of Black Walnuts each year.

“The Hammons family is so proud to be stewards of the Black Walnut industry and to play a role in keeping these wild nuts as part of our American culture,” says CEO, Brian Hammons. “The fall harvest and Black Walnuts in cooking and ice cream are all woven into the fabric of our heritage. And we at Hammons are excited to see a whole new generation of chefs and cooks discover the rich, bold taste.”

Hand foraging and enjoyment of Black Walnuts date back to the days of American explorers and Native Americans, and much earlier by some archeological accounts. Black Walnuts are a nostalgic tradition for many families in baked goods and Black Walnut ice cream. Other folks have more recently discovered the rich, bold flavor in trendy urban bakeries and chef-inspired menu entrees.

Try retro Fancy Black Walnut Cake, or trendy new Cider-Baked Apples with Black Walnuts and Pumpkin-Caramel Sauce.

Today, nutritious, bold “Hammons” brand nutmeats are found in specialty foods from ice cream and fudge to nut breads and encrusted fish. The ground nut shells are used in industrial applications, and the Hammons Black Walnut Emporium provides nuts to consumers through the retail store in Stockton and the online catalog.

Dozens of recipe ideas, as well as information about Hammons Products Company and the growing and harvesting of Black Walnuts can be found on the company website.

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