Monday, March 18, 2013

Nuts to all that

I've been pondering nuts rather a lot of late. Why? It's complicated. The connections my brain makes these days between nature, food, environmental concerns and so on never cease to surprise and disturb me but for whatever reason I've found myself increasingly googling unusual nuts.

One of the hooks that led me down this rabbit hole was discovering the rather fascinating blog of the Badgersett Research Corporation. There is it must be said not a lot of work going into the improvement of the world's nut crops. These guys are working on that though. Although not a massive agri-business they've achieved remarkable and interesting success with hybridising hazel species (America's beaked and bush hazels and the european hazel) to produce varieties suited to the demands and diseases of the USA. They're also working with the American Chestnut Foundation to produce blight resistant hybrids with high US chestnut genetics to try and someday restore the great chestnut forests of the Apalachians. Which is cool and worth a look.

That led me to Grimo-Nuts which is a family run nut nursery with a catalogue deep enough to interest readers the world over and sure to tempt those in the States or Canada.

Somehow I ended up reading the Northern Nut Growers Association Report of the Proceedings at the Eleventh Annual Meeting Washington, D. C. October 7 AND 8, 1920. It's wonderful. Like Steampunk horticulture. Full of early twenthieth century endeavour, good intention and politeness with exchanges and phrases like:

Mr. Littlepage: What is the variety?
Professor Close: They are all seedlings. In fact all of his varieties are dead. He has nothing but seedlings.
Mr. Littlepage: Has that been called to Dr. Van Fleet's attention?
Professor Close: Not that I know of. I doubt if Dr. Van Fleet has seen this blight proof one. I will be glad to tell him about them when I have an opportunity. Mr. Killen has one Japan walnut tree that is interesting. It must be 25 or 30 years old. I do not know where he got it. One limb we measured extends out 36 feet. The limbs on the other side of the tree are not quite so long but the tree is nearly 70 feet in diameter. Two years ago he sold the crop for $54.00, and he thinks he will get more this year. He has contracted the crop to a nurseryman. Mr. Killen has quite a number of seedling Persian walnuts and some of them, perhaps all, blight more or less. He is very much exercised over the blight. He worries more over this than he does over the chestnut blight.
Why not have Mount Vernon walnuts thus distributed throughout the Union. Every school boy and girl in the land would be delighted to get them for planting.
The supply would not equal one hundredth part of one per cent of the demand for them. Then select throughout the country other special or historic trees of various kinds or varieties of nuts and still I am sure the supply would not begin to equal the demand. Long ago I began to arrange for nut crops from some of these historic trees, planted by Washington at his beautiful Mount Vernon home, now the Mecca for prince or pauper and all those millions who love the freedom of glorious America.
Those nuts will be planted in the parks and on the grounds of the people of my home city this very year by the children of our schools who are now in their moulding being taught to revere the name of the father of our country.
This very act of patriotism will cause thousands of boys and girls to have fixed in their minds for youth or age the value of planting the useful trees that will in later years produce food of the very best character for the human race. Carry this message into every city, village and school district and the good work will be duplicated thousands of times and then the movement in which we have so earnestly engaged will have brought forth fruit in great abundance so that even the great majority of those living today, and certainly the generations to come must give this organization and its founders great credit for real and lasting benefits that will prevail for centuries to come.
Simply wonderful stuff.

Last of the links is this piece on the historic "George W. Bush" Butternut Tree and why it's so important (hint: It's not that George W Bush).

So time for a photo. This is labelled Turkish Hazel in my files. That would be Corylus colurna which, you may not be surprised to learn in light of the above, is a woefully underplanted tree.

turkish hazels

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