Oh, Nuts, How We Love Thee.

Finally.

Autumn, Sweet Autumn.

Where have you been hiding, My Friend?

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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.
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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.

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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.

No.

Nuts.

As in, I didn’t come home with one pecan.

Nuts!

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.

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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.

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And here’s one a squirrel has harvested.

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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.

Toasted Pecans

You need three things:

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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.)

Cool.

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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.

Cool.

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?

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Leave a comment 17 Comments

  1. Mary Pitman says:

    Hickory nuts ARE good to eat! My MIL used to make a ‘hickory nut pie’, just like pecan. But we always had to be careful, because she couldn’t see really well and we’d get the shell pieces in our pie! Great memories.

  2. Ramona Puckett says:

    We have pecan trees on our property. They don’t produce every year, we’ve heard they have a bumper crop every 7 years! Talk about faith! I haven’t seen any but it’s early here, in NE Oklahoma. Love your descriptions and pictures oh and the new kitty is beautiful! Have a blessed day!

  3. My favorites are cashews. I keep some in a jar ready to pop a few in my mouth when I’m hungry for a snack so I don’t reach for the cookies instead (well, most of the time). P.S. As a cat lover, all cats are beautiful to me!

  4. Peggy Tackett says:

    I wish I had your hickory nuts. My sisters and I when we were little would sit and crack these for our older sister to make fudge with. They are very good. You should try them in some fudge and you will see. I love your blog and will continue to read. I love cats even though I don’t have one at present but the one in the picture reminds me of a cat I had and I called him Prince. He thought he was a prince. lol

  5. Rhiannon Carlton says:

    I have a question, you mentioned that you buy nuts in shell from produce department and you roast those. Can you tell me about that? Thank you!

  6. Diane Van Horn says:

    I love all nuts especially cashews but like you, I avoid the Brazil nuts. That black cat is gorgeous and arrived just in time for Halloween!

  7. Vivian Monroe says:

    My favorite….Walnuts, Brazil nuts, then almonds… :) I think the long skinny pecans, I say Pa Cons too, are considered Native Pecans…I think…thanks for sharing the recipes…I’m gonna try some. Be Blessed. Neta

  8. Doris Hall says:

    Hickory nuts are so good in homemade fudge. When I was little ( in the ’40’s) Dad would crack the nuts and I would use an embroidery needle to pick out the nut meat then mom would make the candy.YUM YUM!! I always love your post and look so forward to them.

  9. Marlene Dotterer says:

    Pecans are my favorite, since forever. I’ve never had hickory nuts. Everything else can line up in whatever order, just behind the pecans. I love nuts. ALL of them, even walnuts, which it turns out I’m allergic to. So I can’t eat those anymore or I’ll get blisters all over my mouth and throat. Is that an allergy or a “reaction?” Dunno, but the result is the same – I can’t eat ’em.

    That’s okay though, because pecans are the perfect substitute! BTW, I say pa-cans, too. And while they are my favorite, there is no doubt that I eat more peanuts (as in peanut butter) than any other nut or legume. I buy the bulk nuts at Whole Foods and grind them in the store. No salt, sugar, or extra oil that way, which is essential for a husband with kidney disease. Not that I need any of that stuff either.

    I’m so glad it’s autumn! Time for pa-can pie!

  10. Sandi King says:

    Rebekah, where I live now the trees surrounding the house are Hickory and Acorn so we have both kinds on the ground. Our neighbors come and pick up the Hickory nuts and they are huge. I hate getting hit by them when they start falling. They hurt. Our squirrels love them and you can watch them scurrying around burying them for future eating as well as digging some up to eat at different times of the year. They have dug up some of my flower bulbs in the process, but the young ones that are born are so much fun to watch because they play a lot too. We have never eaten Hickory nuts and probably never will. My favorites are a can of mixed nuts; my son loves all nuts, but pistachios are his favorite. I love cats and have 6 now; 5 indoors and one outside. We had 3 adults when I rescued two young kittens from a cat killing dog and they are males and beautiful. They go to the vet on Nov 1st. Our backyard has the acorns on the ground and I picked up a lot of them one time, searched the Internet about them and found they had to be baked in the oven before eating for a certain length of time; I didn’t, and threw them back on the ground. I would rather trust the store bought ones more than what I would do to them if I had to process them. Black cats and Halloween are a given and wonderful. They also are great for keeping the mice population down. Our outdoor cat catches moles, voles, mice, and some birds and one time a squirrel. Must have been an old squirrel as I know they are quicker than a cat. Well until next time have a great Fall and Winter. I too look forward to a colder and snowier winter this year.

  11. Brenda White says:

    I’m a nut for nuts! My all time favorite are cashews, salted of course. We have a local peanut shop downtown. And they sell broken cashews at a discounted price. If we’re buying for ourselves we go for the broken ones. They all taste the same,right? And your new kitty is beautiful! We have a black cat that looks just like yours whose name is Binx.

  12. Dianna Hauf says:

    Oh how I love it! We had a small 14 acre pecan orchard we sold back 4 years ago. I’ve TOTALLY missed the harvesting AND eating of our pecans!! We even had our dog trained to help sniff out those we missed on the ground! His reward was a wee taste of the devine meat! I still buy PA-cans during the fall months and toast them as well as make sugared pecans for the family! Enjoy extra for those of us who love them as well! They, along with hazelnuts are my fsv’s!! Oh yes, Mr or Mrs “It” looks just like my Cassanova! Happy Fall y’all!!

  13. Denise says:

    I love love nuts especially cashews, peanuts – honey roasted with salt ..mmm, walnuts. Almonds don’t sit so well with me unfortunately tho they are very good fir you, as are Brazil nuts tho I always go fur my favourite nuts over them each time.
    I find it difficult to find the bags of nuts at the store over here these days, but do buy them and love them when I do find them. Your receipes Sound awesome and I’m going to make them with store bought raw nuts, I’ll let you know how they turn out.
    Black cats and Halloween … purrfect timing .

  14. Cathy R says:

    Thank you, your post brings back a lot of memories from growing up in the south. PA-CONS are my favorite, but like eating all nuts, especially the whole ones in a bowl to crack at Christmas! My mother made a delicious hickory nut cake and lucky for us our Dad enjoyed collecting and cracking them. The cats are in heaven when they show up at your farm! Blessings for a delightful fall and winter!

  15. Marlene Capelle says:

    Any nut sitting in front of me ready to eat.

  16. Judy Kennedy says:

    Oh I love all nuts, I think Almonds are my favorite. I love Hazelnuts in desserts. I didn’t used to like Brazil nuts but lately I think they are a good alternative to Macadamia nuts which are very expensive.
    When I was young we had an English walnut and a Black walnut tree in our yard. I agree the Black walnuts are a pain to shell but how I love the maple syrup flavor they impart. I remember eating tons of the English walnuts and the dread of having to help shell them for holiday cooking projects as well as homey gifts to give. My mom would “put up” jars of jam and apple butter to go along with the nuts.
    I enjoy your blog very much. Thanks for the memories.

  17. MB Whitney says:

    I’m not a big nut fan overall but I love making things with nuts. If I’m eating them plain cashews are the way to go. I love candied pecans.

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