Friday, October 31, 2008

Hazelnuts, Chestnuts & Heartnuts - grown locally!

I made my final purchase for the season at the Bailey's Local Foods pick-up today. The list of available local foods (even at the very end of October) was staggering! Nina had outdone herself, sourcing everything from butter & cheeses to free-range turkey, produce (including bushels of the last red peppers, bushels of apples, fresh herbs) to peanutbutter, popcorn to pickles, salsa to squashes, sparkling applecider to blackcurrant jam, pear sauce to peach custard pie, 12 kg bags of organic flour to locally handmade pasta, canned peach slices to raspberry cookies, dried beans and much more. Wow! I wish my wagon was bigger to be able to cart home more items (actually it was my handy baby stroller and a large backpack that carted my food home today, as Maya came along with me sleeping all the way).

In the end I had restrained myself and settled on only ordering a few special things that I can't find at our local farmer's market (because I do love going there each Saturday). In particular I was excited about the source for 100-mile nuts that she found. I had not known about the Society of Ontario Nut Growers (or SONG), and their active promotion of nut-tree growing in Ontario (see Nina found a particular farm in the Niagara region that grows chestnuts, hazelnuts and heartnuts in their nut orchard (yes, it's still called an orchard), and was offering these to food buying club members by the pound. I can just imagine savouring these nuts over the course of the winter, bringing them out for after a holiday meal, and roasting the chestnuts in our new woodstove (or even outside in a small fire for a Winter Solstice treat). There is something precious about holding an edible nut (like any seed) in your hand and really thinking about what this means - the potential held within it, the possiblity of a full-grown tree someday - making it all the more potent knowing this nut is fresh, has been sustainably grown and harvested by hand, and came from only an hour or two from here...

The SONG website offers helpful advice for the would-be nut farmer, such as starting a nut orchard, how to harvest nuts, grafting, starting nut trees from seed, value-added products, and more. I was amazed to read that nut trees able to be grown in Ontario make up quite a long list, including the aforementioned heartnuts, hazelnuts, and chestnuts, but also Persian walnuts, black walnut (which we have four of on our property), butternut, buartnut, ginko (didn't know this was an edible nut tree), northern pecan, hican, shellbark and shagbark hickory, nut pines (in our climate the Korean, Swiss and Siberian pines), and even almond. On the site there are links to each variety of nut with more growing details, history, and photos. Many of the nut trees can successfully be started from seed here in Ontario, so I am hopeful to try sprouting some of the nuts I just purchased and start a nut tree orchard of my own. If the seedlings take, I'd love to develop a small urban tree nursery and pass on edible tree seedlings to people at our annual May 24 seedling sale.

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