Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chinkapin versus Chestnut

A second chinkapin seedling has popped up today! I swear, they must make a "sproing" noise when they emerge, the way they magically go from nothing to three leaves.

Anyway, when I got my nuts planted (har de har, I do love talking about my nuts!) I reserved a few for a photo-op and taste test. So, here they are, featured with a penny for scale-reference, and some imported chestnuts.

As you can see, there is a good reason that chinkapin aren't a part of our modern diet: they are tiny. Though I suppose size restrictions don't keep anyone from eating rice, so there goes that argument. More likely is that nobody ever focused on finding a mechanical means of harvesting and shelling them, leaving them to languish in the forgotten realms of so many other amazing foods that never make an appearance at grocery stores.

Cute, aren't they? Yes, you say, but what do they taste like?

They taste fegging delicious! The meat is soft and smooth, like acorn, if you happen to have ever eaten acorn, har har. And sweet. I can't compare them to the chestnut flavor, alas, because my fancy expensive imported chestnuts turned out to be all dried up. That big yellow brainy thing is the chestnut nut-meat. They were sweet but too tough to bother with raw, and when I tried roasting them, they turned into toothbreakers. So, not a fair comparison.

Both chinkapin and chestnut have a shell that is more like leather than wood. Again, much like acorn. This makes chestnuts versatile, because they can be cut open with a knife. Perhaps that is what I needed to try with the chinkapin. As it turns out, they are too small for a nutcracker to open. Using the extreme wrong end of the cracker, I sent a few nuts zinging across the living room, and painstakingly squashed the remainder. You can see the slightly mangled nutmeats, above. A board and a rock would have been faster, and mangled them just as thoroughly.

After eating those, I cracked open a pecan. Three things struck me. "Wow, this shell sure is a noisy brittle pain." "This nutmeat is giant!" And "this tastes like sawdust." There actually was enough moist sweet flavor in those smaller-than-peanut chinkapins to put pecans to shame. And I love pecans.


Saturday, November 27, 2010


Germination! Here is my first confirmed Allegheny chinkapin tree.

Ironically, this little guy is growing in the container that I let Gabe set up. I had given him the small nuts, and the molding ones, to keep him busy while I got the rest potted. There may be a dozen in here. But by the way the exposed roots looked, and the sorry quality of the nuts, I had been sure they were dead! I guess they like the shallow and cluttered conditions. Perhaps it reminds them of the way they would collect naturally on the forest floor.

My next challenge: did I give these plants enough room to grow between now and December? I only left a few inches of each container unfilled with dirt.

Better that I have to deal with overcrowded greens than no greens at all, I suppose!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Waiting for my Nuts to Grow

There isn't much to report right now. Twenty-some containers, each containing two nuts, are out in the garden. I won't know until the Spring if they survive.

Another twenty-odd containers, each with two nuts, hides indoors behind the sofa.

In theory these should sprout any day now, if I haven't killed them. But the jury is still out. They sat in a baggie in the fridge, partially germinated, for a couple of weeks, with nothing but a damp paper towel to sustain them. Then I got them into the container, but didn't get them adequately watered for most of a week, thanks to wrangling a toddler at the same time.

Supposedly chinkapin don't do well in soggy conditions, so I'm crossing my fingers.

So far, the weed seeds are germinating nicely in the indoor containers. I guess that's a good sign. I'll need to use the bacon tongs to pull those out, but in the mean time, at least something is growing.

More ominously, in the one container where I gave Gabe some of my extra nuts and let him play, I can see a couple of the partially-germinated nuts peeking out of the soil, and they appear to be rotting. But in another container where my hasty watering dislodged soil, I can see what looks like new roots. So, fifty-fifty chance?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mow, mow, mow your lawn. . .

Here is an article that clears up some of the confusion regarding the pollution created by gas-powered lawn mowers. (Thanks Garden Rant for the link.)

I love my reel mower!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Just Disgusted

On the stupid news front, Seed Savers Exchange was founded, it appears, by yet another over-zealous hippie of the sort whose work causes me to fall in love and whose politics eventually break my heart. He was chucked out of the organization a few years back, and recently made a speech in which he accused Seed Savers of playing into the hands of Monsanto-type companies by giving seeds to the Svalvard Global Seed Vault. You have got to be kidding me. Read about the soap opera over at Garden Rant, and then read Squash's humorous comments, in which she doesn't actually use a cucumber euphemism.

Call me a radical moderate, but it seems to me that the best path for agriculture would be for the hippie save-the-earth crowd to play nice with big agribusiness, especially now that the Justice Department has said that genes can't be patented! The Scientist Gardener is a great blog to read if you are interested in middle-of-the-road options. His recent post on rice demonstrates how even the most perfected strains of crop varieties need to be continually bred in order to stay productive. Seed Savers-type organizations should be helping with this, not taking their toys and hiding them away where they do most of the world no good.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chased Away

What sort of raptor is this? A broad-winged hawk, perhaps? The body was rather red, the tail and wings barred with black and white. He was hopping about in the bare trees in the back yard.

There has been massive bird activity in the yard this week. I would assume that the same birds have just become more visible with the leaves off the trees, except that for the first time all year, we have had a rash of bird strikes on the windows. ("Poor bird," says Gabe. I keep thinking of a story I heard of a turkey ending up in someone's living room, along with a lot of bloodied, broken glass.)

The songbirds were absolutely mobbing this poor hawk! Note the innocent-looking robin there in the photo. I have never seen so many species working together to drive off a predator. Chris only managed three quick photos before their efforts at driving off the raptor succeeded.