Saturday, December 17, 2016

Walnuts: Candied and for the Birds

Eighteen years ago I planted a walnut tree in our back yard.

This year it gave us its most bountiful crop, even with the loss of one of its main branches to a wind storm this past summer. The remaining branches were so heavily laden with big walnuts that they drooped down into our soccer playing pitch thus necessitating the occasional pruning of downward intruding branches.

Throughout the fall as walnuts dropped and then finally the leaves, the branches bounced back upwards.

The bird watching view from our family room window.

Fall and early winter mornings find a fun variety of birds enjoying the fruits of our back yard. First to go are the chokecherries in mid summer, then eventually it is the sun flowers seeds, plums, grapes, yew berries, tiny flowering pears, mountain ash berries and walnuts.

Fat Robin in the flowering pear.

Three robins in the mountain ash.

A few quail who ventured away from their dropped and decaying plum-feasting covey.

Startled starlings

Northern flicker (woodpecker) cracking open a walnut.

Top of the pecking order magpie. They love the walnuts and are their primary eaters. I apply the law of gleaners to my harvesting of walnuts. If I can't get the tough, hardened, blackened shell off I leave them in a pile under the walnut tree for birds to glean during the winter.

Magpie hard at work.

Post meal outer and inner shells.

A rare guest in our back yard a few weeks ago was this female sharp-shinned hawk (which looks a lot like a cooper's hawk). It is feasting on a bird.

 Squirrels also like our walnuts. The deer that frequent our backyard do not.

As the walnuts started to fall from October through November we would gather them up and then with a screw driver and gloves (the blackened outer shells really stain) I would peal off the soft green or hardening black outer shell. I then left them to dry on our front porch.

Shelling was done while watching the news (I'm weary of news about Trump), Christmas concerts or The Flash with Will. The stainless steel tub produced over 10 pounds of walnuts.

Quite a savings given the current price of a pound of walnuts.

For delicious candied walnuts, boil one cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of orange juice for two minutes, add a quarter teaspoon of orange extract, stir in four cups of walnuts and then spread to cool.  Easy.

Ready to go for an Emmett family party tomorrow and for neighborhood gifts. Tasty.

Still more to shell and enjoy throughout the year. I've decided to do more baking since I am the one who most enjoys walnuts in cookies, cakes and other desserts (banana splits!).

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