I hated walnuts until I moved to Tulare County. We couldn’t have been relocated into a better place than when my first husband and I moved here August 1, 1985, a month prior to the beginning of walnut harvesting season. After about 3 months of blistering hot weather, and by that I mean temperatures of 105+ F or 40.55 C, walnuts are ready to come down from their lofty perches. We rented an old adobe house centered between two walnut groves.
Nobody told me how they got walnuts out of the trees. Walnut trees put up with a lot from us humans. Have you ever been in so much trouble that your authority person took you by the shoulders and shook you? That’s what large equipment, called a shaker, does to each and every walnut tree. Do you know what is in the trees besides walnuts?
Of course you do. Dust. There is so much dust in the air that even the leaves can’t breathe. Maybe the trees are grateful for the shake-up. Leaves are much more tenacious than walnuts, however, and they stay put through the process. Walnut husks let loose of most of their walnuts and drop them nicely into a large dump truck following the shaker machine. I almost got pictures of that happening this fall, but guess what? Forgot my camera – AGAIN! The amount of dust that filled the air would have horrified those of you who think the sky is blue. It isn’t in September. It’s brownish-blue. Even the clouds hide when the dust is flying.
In the days when we lived in the walnut groves, I had all the walnuts I ever wanted. After the shakers came, the gleaners gleaned. They took some of the walnuts that were left on the ground where the shaker didn’t aim very well, and missed the dump truck. After the gleaners finished, the walnut trees dropped the rest of their walnuts sporadically throughout the winter.
One warm day in November I headed into the grove for my daily walk. Lying on the ground were piles and piles of left-over walnuts that everybody had missed. In all the months we had lived there (4), I didn’t realize that walnuts had connoisseurs that weren’t human, but they did. Even after a month of picking them I had not met a non-human walnut-lover, but on this particular day I met them. At first I picked up just a walnut or two, and carried them in my hands. Then I got greedy. I didn’t have a container with me, so I used my blouse, and just made a little sling out of the front of it, and started loading it with walnuts. Here and there I bent down, and added more and more walnuts to my nifty cotton t-shirt/bag. (Yes, I was literally a 30 year-old bag lady.)
With my blouse filled with walnuts, I started itching a little. I couldn’t scratch because I was carrying all those walnuts, and that took both hands. Walking faster and faster I still was quite a ways from our house, when I realized what was happening. I disturbed these inhumane feasters by stealing their walnuts and jostling them. They came out of the walnut shell to check things out. Obviously they didn’t like what they saw, and decided to scare me away from their dinner by biting me instead. Hundreds of them, tiny red ants swarmed out of the shells, into the folds of my blouse, up and over the fabric, right onto my tummy, and up across the top to my neck. Once I saw the little red devils, I dropped those walnuts, and brushed ants off me as I dashed towards the house. I couldn’t fill the bathtub fast enough.
So when I was on my drive, December 4th admiring the beautiful red leaves of the vineyard across the street, the walnut trees, my old friends, called out to me, “Marsha Lee, don’t just look at those withered up old grape vines. We’re pretty, too. Take our pictures.”
How do you resist a plea like that? (Even if I did think they sort of looked like they were wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes.) I didn’t tell them that, of course.
How I get rid of ants, and got walnuts ready to eat:
- Heat walnuts in the shell in an oven heated to about 200 degrees. When you start smelling hair, you can turn off the over, but I still leave them in there. (About an hour or two. I never had any walnuts seem over done. If you don’t roast them a bit they are kind of chewy.
- Shell the walnuts. This is a great TV watching activity.
- Store walnuts in the freezer. They keep for a long time.
I always had WAY more walnuts than I could have used in a lifetime. I don’t have any left, but I’ve probably had all the walnuts I can stomach for a lifetime anyway. I do miss having them in my back yard, though.
Today’s featured blog is new to me, Algarve Blog. I was first attracted to the beautiful header, but I read further. Algarve posts about Portuguese culture, among other things. This interests me since one of my good friends is Portuguese, and I learned a little about Christmas traditions in Portugal. You will find a wonderful article about Santas when you read about the Food Bank project. These Santas are athletic. I think you will enjoy this beautiful and informative site.