Friday, September 3, 2010

going nutty

Well, I've made some progress on our hazelnut harvest. All the nuts have aged and been husked. Now they're just awaiting the day when we crack and eat them (sure to be soon!)

I did find some interesting information on choosing 'good nuts', specifically for planting. Apparently if you put your nuts in a dish of water, the good nuts will sink, the bad ones will float. I tested this theory, and then took all the floating nuts and cracked them open. The results: of about a dozen floaters, 10 were hollow/rotten and 2 were edible nuts. Not a perfect method for  sorting eating nuts, but certainly good if you wanted to enlarge your forest :)

Anyone for clandestine planting practices? *raises hand* gonna put a few hazelnuts, acorns, and chokecherries in good soil this fall, and see if any sprout next year!

my relatively meager hazelnut harvest
on a secondary, but related note, i decided to try (another) something new....  Acorns.
My mother's yard has 3 acorn trees of various ages (none terribly old yet) and two of them are chock full of nuts this year, so i thought it would be a good experiment to try and harvest some of them, see what they taste like.

Interestingly, according to this page, "Over the course of human history it has been estimated that people have eaten more acorns than both wheat and rice combined." and yet today it is such a non-food, perhaps something you might feed to animals... but certainly not to _people_! :)  Heh. Whatever. Here goes for bucking convention again...

I went out with a small container a couple days ago, and collected the nuts that had fallen off the one tree (a burr oak) and both the ones that had fallen, and the ones about to fall (ie brown and fell out in my hands when i tested them for looseness) from the other one (tentatively identified as either a Gary oak, or a burr oak hybrid). 

I then took off the husks from the burr oak (they don't fall off on their own). I did it what i'm thinking is the hard way, peeling it off in bits with my nails. It worked, but was tedious, and scratched up my nails (which would be a bad thing, if i cared much about them!)

Today, i went out with a larger basket, and collected again. the most ripe nuts are the ones that have fallen to the ground, and are the ones to take.

  a slightly blurry picture of my harvest. 

I'm still in the process of peeling the husks, but i've discovered an easier way: 
Use a small sharp knife to carefully cut away the husk on one side. 

  The nut should then come out fairly easily by pushing the pointy end towards the cut side, and prying it out with your fingers. 

While going through the nuts (particularly the 2 day old ones) i have found some worms, even though i took all the obviously holed ones out. Thus, here is a bit of an aid for anyone else who might want to pick: 
 This nut almost definitely has a worm in it.  

This nut has a smaller blemish that may or may not have a worm.

Nuts without blemishes like those above may still have scratches on them (the color is different on the outer layer of shell than the inner ones) This seems to be normal, and doesn't indicate a bad nut.

I decided to sort my nuts by blemish status... i now have a 'quarrantine' tray, and a basket for the un-blemished nuts. Every couple of days, i need to check on all the nuts, and remove any bugs, holed nuts, moldy nuts, etc... apparently it will take a couple of weeks indoors for the nuts to be fully ripened, cured, and ready to process. 
 quarantine in the box on the left, good nuts on the right.

As for the 'okay, so what do i do now' step? I'm going to follow the instructions on this page, which seems very informative. 
I plan on shelling, boiling, and freezing for later consumption (i think... i may grind and dry them for flour instead).

For the record, i tasted a couple nuts. they were pretty sweet and not astringent, so they likely have fairly low tannin content. Please note that un-boiled acorns in quantity are toxic, however tasting one or two is unlikely to do you any damage.* Tannic acid is a type of tannin, the same stuff found in grapes, tea, and numerous other sources. It just happens to be rather concentrated in acorns.

*if you have nut sensitivities, be extremely cautious! These nuts can cause the same reactions as more conventional nut choices!

I opened a wormy nut for ya, to show the damage, and an underage worm.

Here's a good nut. See the lovely white meat? And how thin the shell is? No wonder the nuts are only good a few months if unprocessed (ie boiled and either frozen or dried).

On the harvesting front, i've run out of both jars and energy for jams and jellies. However, i still want to do: more applesauce, more crabapple juice, some jelly juice to freeze for use in later fall (i have plans to do crabapple rosehip jelly) as well as can some apple pie filling. We shall see. 

As for brewing, we started some chokecherry mead, some jelly crab mead, and most recently some pear mead. It all looks wonderfully fizzy and active. (yay!) I also have some chokecherry liqueur on the go, which is a wonderful color!

And if anyone is interested in a little barter, just gimmee a shout!

If you're interested in fibre stuff, expect a post about wool and things shortly!

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