Autumn, Sweet Autumn.
Where have you been hiding, My Friend?
Oh, how I’ve been longing for you on these hot summer-like days.
And now you’re here.
With the arrival of autumn, comes the arrival of pumpkin spice season. Yes, we all know that. It is pumpkin spice everything.
But it is also the arrival of nut season. Nuts are good for us, nutritional powerhouses.
Autumn is the time of the year to go hunting. For nuts. Specifically for me, it’s pecans.
I say, “PA-CONS” not “PEE-CANS.”
Anyway. My first stop on my quest for PA-CONS is always the family farm that my father grew up on. We went the other day. Here’s my Dad walking in the grove, looking for nuts.
The pecan trees are located beside the ‘car house.’ (I love the name ‘car house’ instead of garage. I always mean to use that term, but always forget.)
My Grandmother Teal, whom I have written so much about through-out the years, had her kitchen garden in this spot before the pecan trees were planted. My Grandfather planted the pecan trees—-he died in 1967, so they are old. There are several different varieties. Some of these trees give us long, thin pecans, and others give us short fat ones.
The long, thin pecans are easy to crack. So easy in fact that as kids, we would stand there in the yard and crack them open as we hunted. You probably know this, but you crack them by putting two in the palm of your hand and squeezing them together. Then you carefully dig out the buttery meat. If you get a bite of the bitter “divider” between the two nut halves, then you’ve got to use your (now dirty) hand to scrape that awful flavor off your tongue. And, if you could get it, a swig of water helps to get rid of that grainy, icky taste.
Do that once and you’ll be a very careful sheller of nuts.
Other nuts from this grove were harder shelled. They were so challenging that it required a nut cracker. We always used this kind of nut cracker. All of the hard shelled pecans made it home because we couldn’t eat them while harvesting.
My most recent nut hunt was a bust. We took a 5 gallon bucket. It stayed in the car. I had hoped to find enough to make a couple of pecan pies for our family Thanksgiving dinner. There were no nuts.
As in, I didn’t come home with one pecan.
How long do pecan trees produce, I wondered? These trees are over 50 years old. Maybe they are past their years of being fruitful?
I also noticed these holes in the trunk of the trees. Some insects or birds made the nicest straight stripes around the trunk. Pretty cool, but maybe it has negatively impacted the nut production? I don’t know.
I looked it up and didn’t find information on how long they produce, but I did see that it takes 10 years from planting a seedling before you get a pecan crop. You talk about faith. And patience. I don’t think I have enough of either to plant a pecan tree. I wonder if my Grandfather knew how long it would be before the trees produced? I wonder if he planted them for us, his offspring, rather than for himself?
Are the bags of unshelled mixed nuts showing up in your produce section of the grocery store yet? They are in mine. I like to roast those for the holidays. Just put them out in bowl with hand-held nut crackers. People always enjoy sitting around and eating them.
WHICH NUT IS YOUR VERY FAVORITE NUT? Tell us in the comments!
I tried to list all the nuts I can think of.
In the order of my favorite:
#1 ALMONDS! I love ‘em. Have you ever had fresh almond butter? Unbelievably delicious. Almonds are fabulous toasted in the shell. Or toasted slices or slivers and put on absolutely anything.
#2 Peanuts. Well, these aren’t really nuts; they are legumes. My Dad often has roasted unshelled peanuts in his pockets to share. You can find baskets of them out on bars. People put them in Coca-Cola. I keep a jar of unsalted roasted peanuts in my pantry. Peanuts are said to be the most popular “nut” in the U.S. And who doesn’t love peanut butter? It’s crunchy for me. The crunchier the better. That means Skippy.
#3 Pecans. So yummy. Toasted. Spiced. Pies. And Butter Pecan ice cream? Come on, does it get any better than that?
Those are my favorites.
Hazelnuts. Can you say Nutella? Yeah, I can too. I also adore coffee flavored with hazelnuts. Interestingly, most hazelnuts grown in the US are grown in Oregon. You might have already known that?
Pistachios. Again, the ice cream is quite delicious.
Walnuts. Great toasted and used as a salad topping.
Black Walnuts. These grow wild in the south, but sooo much trouble to shell. So much trouble that most people deem them UNWORTHY of the effort. I have tried, and I agree with “most people.”
Sunflower Seeds. These are nuts, right?
Brazil nuts. I don’t know. What do you think about these? I usually skip them in the mix. Eh, if you ask me. Sorry, Brazil.
Chestnuts. I like these more in theory than in reality. It’s the song, I’m sure. During the holidays, we MUST have chestnuts roasting at least once. The US imports most of the chestnuts we eat here.
Pine nuts. I think these are only good IN things, like pesto? They come from special pinecones, grown in SW US.
Cashews. Where do they come from, you ask? They sprout from the bottom of a cashew apple, the fruit of a tropical evergreen tree.
Are coconuts considered nuts? Because I do like ME some coconut. Toasted flakes, so good.
Hickory nuts. I have a ton of hickory nut trees in my woods. I’ve never heard of a person eating these, but they are edible. I’ve heard that they don’t taste good and are hard to shell. Squirrels love these. That’s a hickory nut at the beginning of this post. Here’s one a squirrel has shelled.
And here’s one a squirrel has harvested.
It is said that an abundance of nuts in fall is a sign of a cold upcoming winter. We have an abundance this year….I sure hope that means a dreamy cold and white winter.
I wanted to show you how I toast pecans, and since my nut hunt came up empty, I went to the grocery store and bought a bag of shelled pecan halves. They are about $10 a pound here.
You need three things:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Melt 1-2 TBSP butter
Pour over 2 cups of pecan halves
Add 1 tsp salt (+/- to taste)
Toss gently to coat the nuts
Toast at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, then toss
Toast 4-5 minutes more. (This toasting requires your undivided attention. I know, I know. I know it’s hard to give anything your undivided attention, but these go from PERFECT to BURNED in no time. So, watch.)
Sweet and Spicy Pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Melt 2 TBSP butter
Pour over 2 cups pecan halves
Add mixture of 1 TBSP sugar, ½ tsp. Ground cumin, ½ tsp. chili powder, ¼ tsp. ground red pepper, 1/8 tsp. garlic salt.
Toss gently to coat the nuts
Toast at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, then toss.
Toast 4-5 minutes more.
Until next time, Friends, savor the flavor of life! And eat your nuts!
Lots of love, The City Farmgirl in the Country, Rebekah
PS I am no longer counting the number, so please don’t ask….but another cat has showed up and is hanging out at the farm….isn’t it beautiful?