BROOKVILLE Ask any Pennsylvania elder who foraged or starved as a youth, and you’ll discover someone who has a great respect for the flavorful, gnarled fruit known as East American black walnuts.
They are native only to the eastern United States and southern Canada. For nutritional and health value, black walnuts contain higher levels of antioxidants, polyunsaturated fats, and other healthy compounds than English walnuts.
Remember, black walnuts are free, healthier, grow better than natives in our area, and are a potential source of hefty future income. They are a renewable resource that must not be discredited.
I cringe when I hear of landowners who have had their black walnut trees cut down and towed away to avoid nuts or leaves on their lawns. Admittedly, they’re better suited to a lawned area, but their lumber fetches some of the highest prices on the commercial market.
Lining a path with walnut chips will keep it clear for many seasons to come. It should not be used near gardens or planting beds as some plants are very sensitive to the allelopathic substance in walnut trees called juglones. The area under a walnut tree often remains well cleared by this effect.
Careful planting makes your trees more of a treasure than a problem. Planted orchards can be an investment in the future if properly cared for with large diameter straight logs worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
The elderly gentleman who sold us our property came from a family life of farming and harvesting commercial and wild foods until he left our area for a job on the railroad. When he retired, he returned to the farm to live out his days.
As neighbors, my children and I heard many of his stories about treasures to be found on this old farm, which by now a few acres had been converted into a housing development where we lived.
From his descriptions of how they generated their own electricity and collected their own water to descriptions of the interesting staff who tended to the needs of the family and farmhands, everything was fascinating.
They figured out how to live on their own land. Unfortunately, as time passed and fewer workers were found as the family left the farm for jobs, as is the case today, the farm sat idle for years but was eventually leased to other farmers who cleared many of the trees to use machinery to reap larger crops. Most nut trees were lost during this period.
Reminiscing about Christmas long ago, George shared one of his saddest memories. For years he had wandered to the now-vanished nut and fruit trees on the property.
He almost drooled when he talked about cakes made with all sorts of nuts. Black walnut was his favorite, but he was expecting a hickory nut cake that his mother had promised him. It was common for friends and family to stop by for dinner unannounced.
The more the merrier, and often they would come and bring their own food to share. He had previously picked a huge bucket of hickory nuts in order to get enough of the nutmeat for over a week for a never before tasted but smelled hickory nut cake.
It was a dream smell. Just as dinner was being served, a family of several members arrived and the table was filled with the adult members of each family.
The kids ate on the second shift, and by that time the cake was gone. The cake took three very well cleaned cups of hickory nuts, which is quite a job he never attempted again.
The kids and I decided to make him this special cake once the nuts fell, were collected and shelled with a brick. It took months to get everything ready.
Anything the children had peeled had to be carefully inspected for shell fragments, but we finally had enough. The cake was delivered and devoured by the adults who came to dinner that night, but this time George got his share.
Black walnuts, including hickory nuts, are our history in Pennsylvania, but most of that knowledge and appreciation has been lost.
Although we have plenty of cheap, empty, nutritious food that is easy to get, but has no real value to our body, plan to plant quality trees and shrubs even on a small plot. Every bit of super nutritious food helps, especially when it’s basically free.
If you have additional questions about getting started growing your own food, please send them to Master Gardener’s gardening hotline at (814) 849-7361 ext. 508 and you will be called back.
They will also make presentations to any group that makes a request. They also welcome suggestions for articles.
Master gardener courses begin annually at the beginning of October. So if you’ve always dreamed of spending time with friends gardening, this is your chance.
Certified Master Gardeners are local volunteers trained by Penn State to answer gardening questions with carefully researched information.
For a best practices answer to your question, call Penn State Jefferson County Extension to leave a message at 849-7361, ext. 508, email [email protected], or mail your question to 186 Main Street, Suite 3, Brookville, Pa. 15825.
- AAA forecasts vacation travel in Georgia to exceed…
- Jayden Gardner's 26-Step #5 Virginia wins easily against…
- Thundering Herd claims seventh win over Georgia Southern |…
- Georgia offers to rebound against East Tennessee State |…
- Kario Oquendo, Georgia too strong for East Tennessee State |…
- Georgia Archives virtual webinar on its history and future |…