Nut Trees Provide Wintertime Staples for the Table
Provide your family with walnuts and pecans by growing nut trees.
Look to the Trees for Hard-Shell Delicacies.
Photo By Brian Brown
If you’re looking for a delicious, nutrition-packed natural food, crack a smile while you enjoy the new crop of hard-shelled fruits this autumn. During November and December, a lot of families put out the traditional holiday bowl of nuts and fancy nutcrackers as part of their home decorations. And as the holiday baking season approaches, a variety of nuts appear on store shelves — the most popular being walnuts and pecans.
But before those cold winter months even get here, why not be adventurous? A few autumn walks with the entire family can produce stronger family ties, essential communication, exercise, and a fall bounty from walnut and pecan trees letting go of their precious delicacies. Harvest nut trees for baking, snacking, decorations and more. Processing them is really pretty simple. Hulling, shelling and storing our native black walnuts and pecans may seem like an old-fashioned way of taking advantage of Mother Nature’s bounty, but it is economical and fun. Just be sure you get to them before the squirrels!
The walnut family (Juglans species) includes butternuts, English walnuts and native black walnuts. Wild trees can be found in many parts of North America, and their fruit is a hard-shelled nut encased in a fibrous layer called a husk or hull.
While plantation or cultivated walnut trees are often severely pruned in order for strong trunk growth, wild trees can grow to more than 100 feet tall. Black walnut trees grow quickly in warm areas with rich soil and adequate water supply. Most English walnuts are grown commercially, with more than half the world’s supply coming from groves in California.
Pecans are classified in the genus Carya, which also includes shellbark and shagbark hickory. Wild pecan trees can grow to more than 70 feet in height and produce small nutmeats in hard shells. Commercially grown trees yield the large, thin-shelled nuts we are used to eating. The wild pecan trees you’ll encounter in rural America are more likely to be smaller with a thicker shell, but, with patience, shelling enough for home use is definitely doable.
If you have these nut trees in your yard, you already know when the nuts begin to fall, and they are yours for the taking. For those who gather in the woods, first make sure you obtain permission from the property owner, then look for walnuts to begin falling in September. Pecans ripen and can be harvested anytime from August to October, depending on which state you live in.
Both trees may be gently shaken to bring nuts down, just remember to dodge the hard orbs as they fall. Use a long-handled rake or a pole with a hook on the end to reach limbs. Picking the nuts up from under the trees is one way to collect them. Another is to have a couple of people hold an old sheet under the limb to catch the falling nuts while someone else shakes the limb. Children love this job. This process can be rough, so wearing gloves is a good idea as you pick and fill baskets or buckets.
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