In this Issue...
Spring Field Days
The genuine original and improved ECSONG Nut Grove awaits you on the 3rd of May, at the Baxter Conservation Center. The FRP grove was our first, and still has more varieties of nut and bean trees than any other! Come and enjoy bursting buds and all the promise of a year to come. A bit of help with mulching is always appreciated, as well as a chain saw to clear a new trail through a peninsula of offending non-nut trees.
On May 17th, join us at the Dolman Ridge to see how ECSONG is restoring the pre-settlement hardwood diversity of the internationally recognised Mer Bleu conservation area. Walk our Nut Tree Trail. (Bring a shovel to help smooth one difficult section.) Winter protection needs to be removed from white oaks, and seedlings uncovered from last year's grass cover. An accompaniment of warbler and thrush songs is normally provided.
Join us at Oak Valley on June 7th, beside the gurgling South Nation River, under the warming spring sun. Working in this wonderful setting will purge the last of winter shadows from your soul. Enjoy your lunch at our picnic facilities, after an energizing morning working in the fresh air. Your assistance is needed to prepare the plantation for another pleasant summer season. Bring a lunch - there's lots to do.
ECSONG Achievement Awards
Peter and Sheila Carr
Ralph McKendry, the second Coordinator of the Oak Valley Nut Grove, hand picked Peter and Sheila to take over leading the Grove's development because he knew they were up to the considerable challenge. In the ensuing years, the grove set the pace for ECSONG's public programs. A shelter was financed by civic groups, a memorial built, a two-holer outhouse was installed, the Eastern Ontario Butternut Archive was established jointly with the Forest Gene Conservation Association, and High School Community Services were employed. Many firsts for nut groves were recorded.
The citation reads: The Eastern Chapter of the Society of Ontario Nut Growers is proud to present this certificate to Peter and Sheila Carr for astutely allying the Oak Valley Nut Grove with its local community & the South Nation Conservation Authority.
John has firmly taken the Dolman Ridge Nut Grove under his wing. Besides being ECSONG's Editor and webmaster, John went through the NCC's deepest scrutiny to become a certified NCC Volunteer. This title enables John to invite the public into the grove with ECSONG under NCC protection. Dolman now has a Nut Tree Trail included in the NCC Trail System. Tests are underway on possibly canker-resistant butternuts, oak plantations new and old are flourishing and growing, 30 year old black walnut plantations are under renovation, the northernmost American Chestnut plantation continues to produce blight-free seed and seedlings, and an honorific to Moe Anderson was dedicated.
The citation reads: The Eastern Chapter of the Society of Ontario Nut Growers is proud to present this certificate to John Sankey for enriching the Dolman Ridge Nut Grove with excellent NCC Nut Tree Trails, ECSONG Honorifics & a visionary School Program
Vera L. Hrebacka
When Vera first joined ECSONG, she soon volunteered to lead the Secretariat. From this vantage, she vowed to see many more people turn out at field days and meetings. ECSONG had an important message, as well as considerable resources to work with in the nut groves. Vera's message to all was, 'we need to talk'! She set up a Phone Tree to reach not only members but also like minded organizations. Attendance climbed. Lapsed members miraculously rejoined, even paying arrears. Membership climbed. Then she set up the 'Kids Program' to enable young families to attend. On its first occasion, more than a dozen kids showed, bringing their families with them. Our Winter Meetings soon filled the Citizen Auditorium. She designed the Friends of the Nut Grove Program, mostly for new members, giving them a firm place to start. Vera set up a network of notice boards both online, offline and in the press.
The citation reads: The Eastern Chapter of the Society of Ontario Nut Growers is proud to present this certificate to Vera Hrebacka for presciently innovating the ECSONG Phone Tree, the Kids Program & also the Friends of the Nut Groves.
Jim Ronson and Ted Mosquin are now satisfied that there are no more than 1000 Shagbarks at the ECSONG Lanark site. This they determined by walking adjacent ridges where they found no more trees. Is this the coldest known site for self-regenerating Shagbarks? It's important to know this.
Shagbarks are considered good candidates for commercial nut production, second only to the pecans amongst hickories. There are commercial cultivars and varieties known to grow well farther south, for example Wilcox, Porter, Harold and Grainger in the central eastern US, according to Sternberg and Wilson in 'Landscaping with Native Trees'. Could shagbark work for the Eastern Ontario region as well?
The species shows a wide variety in nut size, shape, colour, crackability and sweetness across its natural range, according to the USDA Forest Service. Might a superior tree be found at Lanark, that might launch a local industry?
Top grafted scions on older rootstock can begin bearing in only 3 or 4 years. Could Lanark scions be top grafted onto bitternut hickory rootstock here? Bitternut is common in these parts, and Andrew Thomas of the University of Missouri says such grafting often works there. You could top graft cuttings from many different shagbarks onto on a single rootstock, and so run many experiments in quite a small space. You could make such a tree a 'living museum' - might be a good idea for Oak Valley, where there already are several larger bitternuts growing naturally in the vicinity.
Nut kernels are not the only possible product. The sap makes an excellent syrup. The nuts can be boiled for oil, or crushed and fermented. The green wood of prunings is the source of everyone's favourite 'hickory smoked flavour'. Bourbon is aged in charred hickory barrels - something to sip while you watch your own shagbarks grow! Roger Yepsen in 'Trees for the Yard, Orchard and Woodlot' reports an interesting wine can be made from the leaves with honey, raisins and water.
By the way, on one of the ECSONG Bus Tours that travelled by the St. Lawrence River, Ted Cormier found a tree with exceptionally large nuts, that he thought might be a natural hybrid of a shagbark and a bitternut. Who wants to go find this tree this year sometime?
Shagbark nuts are also part of the diet of many local critters, such as red and grey squirrels, chipmunk, raccoon and white-tailed deer.
Local Butternut and Black Walnut Tastings
Black walnut trees abound in the City of Ottawa. Butternut was once common, but is becoming rarer as it is being killed off throughout its natural range by a canker disease. Shockingly, just a handful of people in the city ever make use of these superior nuts. Believe it or not, almost the entire crop is raked up every fall and sent off to the Land Fill by grumpy home owners!
I recently arranged several culinary events to change this sad state of affairs. Two events focussed on the black walnut and one on the butternut. The black walnuts and the butternuts used were from trees growing in the new city of Ottawa. The kernels were kept frozen to ensure freshness until used.
On Thursday, March 27, 2003, a formal dinner was hosted at the Ottawa home of a prominent Ambassador. The dinner was prepared by chefs Chris Hudson and Susan Jessup, of Jessup & Associates. The appetizer was Chris's own black walnut diamond crackers creation. Finely chopped black walnut was mixed into the cracker dough. The crackers were served topped with rosette pipings of soft goat cheese with a little lemon juice and lemon zest. The fifteen guests 'wolfed down' the crackers, according to Chris. They were surprised to learn about the black walnut, and that the nuts were locally grown. Chris declared the crackers a nutty success!
Another event involved the butternuts at a lunch at 'The Pantry', a charming veggie organic tea room located in the Glebe Community Centre. The lunch, held Wednesday, April 2, 2003, was attended by Vera Hrebacka, Kathleen Jones, Vera Pastyrik and yours truly. Carolyn Best, owner and chef, made the dessert from the butternuts, a nut soufflé with a touch of maple sugar. Butternuts have a delicate flavour, easily lost in complex recipes. So, the soufflé was an excellent choice, and praised by all.
John Sankey says that black walnut ice cream could be the most profitable product for hereabouts. So, Friday, April 4, 2003, Kathleen held a degustation with black walnut bits sprinkled on vanilla ice cream. Mark Jones, Leigh Hayward, Hank Jones, Vera Hrebacka and Kathleen herself made the taste test. Definitely a winner, say the tasters. Try it yourself.
Sudden Oak Death Update
The newly discovered disease Sudden Oak Death (SOD) in California is tenacious and lethal, using as many as 26 different plants as hosts and spreading in ways scientists don't completely understand.
With so many plants as hosts, can it spread to the Eastern Ontario region? That's what I read into it. Whether naturally, as it is indicated in the online article, or brought across the continent by import or other means, it would only be a matter of time before it turned up here. There are limiting factors, whether it can survive at high altitudes, i.e. colder climates. It appears that it is just coastal now, and the colder mountains may be a physical limiting barrier. But it could spread up the west coast into Oregon, Washington state, and perhaps into British Columbia.
According to the web article, "Bay laurel and native plants other than oaks are the main hosts for the Sudden Oak Death pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum (Phylum Oomycota), in California." M. Garbelotto et al. (APSnet Feature story, April 2003; originally published in California Agriculture 57(1):18-23) indicate that it causes a deadly canker disease in Lithocarpus densiflora (Tanoak), Quercus agrifolia (Coast live oak), Q. kellogii (California black oak), and Q. parvula var. shrevei (Shreve's oak). Other hosts include species of the family Ericaceae: Arbutus menziesii (Madrone), Vaccinium ovatum (Evergreen huckleberry), Rhododendron sp.; Lauraceae (Laurel Family): Umbellularia californica (Bay laurel or Oregon myrtle); Rosaceae (Rose family); Aceraceae (Maple family); Aesculus californica (California buckeye), Lonicera hispidula (Honeysuckle), Seqouia semperivirens (Coast redwood) and Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas-fir).
It is already in both California and Oregon. The article states that nuclear ribosomal DNA has confirmed that the California SOD species is the same as one that occurs in Germany and the Netherlands which causes stem and leaf blight in ornamental and landscape Rhododendron and Viburnum.
I recommend that readers look at the article for themselves. There is a table listing the hosts (Latin name), common name, plant part affected, and the method the scientists used for detecting the infection. The article goes on to discuss the symptoms and severity of the disease on these other hosts.
For more information, check with Peter.
Update on our Champion Butternut
At the Royal Ottawa Golf Club, you can see what is almost certainly the world's champion butternut tree (Juglans cinerea). I arranged for expert visits to it this spring by John Wilson, MNR's Private Lands Forester, Chuck Davis, a pathologist with Forestry Canada, and Dr. Richard Wilson, a prominent Canadian forest pathologist.
Chuck could not find any clear evidence of butternut canker, though he noted one suspicious spot half way up. Other black spots found seemed not to be canker. He thinks the tree may be more threatened by old age than canker. Richard agreed that the tree seems to be free of canker.
We were all impressed with the care being taken of the tree. Prunings were expertly done. Cabling was evident, but we are concerned about one cable that was hose wrapped and showing some signs of possible girdling. This cable attachment should be changed to the bolt style of the other cables. Also, the limb overhanging the parking lot is showing signs of breakaway. If the upper part were pruned off, the substantial weight reduction could stabilize this branch. This pruning would not change the tree's overall size noticeably. It also would remove the only suspicious canker spot found. A double benefit we think.
The pruning already done over the years is expert and healing is proceeding. There was no sign of top die back last summer, which means the tree is still vigorous, and healing should continue. Chuck noted that one of the vertical branches had two smaller side branches that were rubbing other main branches These two should be removed - they would not be missed.
We met Palle Kiar on site, a member of the club and also of its Tree Committee. Over drinks, we talked about the club's butternuts' future. The club cherishes its trees, and wants to do the best for them. They want to confirm that the big tree is in fact the world's champion. If it is, then they might place a plaque, to be dedicated in a special ceremony.
So, how shall we confirm its champion status? I will tackle this matter. Measurements by John Sankey, Sergei Ponomarenko and me early last winter gave its circumference as 6.838 m (269 inches), height 25.8 m (85 feet) and crown spread 28.4 m average (93 feet). This scores the tree at 377 points in the American system.
On the website, you will see that the current American record holder is in Connecticut. It is only 259 inches in circumference, 78 feet in height, with a 76 foot spread, for a score of 356 points. Our tree is bigger in all three measures.
However, there are rumours of another giant tree in New Brunswick. Richard will take its measure this spring, so we will soon know.
How old might our tree be? Coring is impossible - there are no corers big enough. The club has a committee compiling its history, and their archive of photos might show the tree many years ago. The NCC folks had once estimated its age at 350 to 380 years. This is very old for a butternut. Butternuts seldom go much over a hundred years.
We asked Palle if the club would permit ECSONG to collect seed and scions for propagation, and this should be okay. Palle indicated that the club is not averse to visitors to the tree though it expects anyone wanting to visit to get permission in advance. Of course, this we will do. Call me at 613-231-4224 if you wish to see the tree.
As I write these words in late March it seems that winter will not soon relent. Yesterday's warm rains and robins have given way to cold north winds and snow flurries. My bicycle trip to Merrickville is cancelled so I have some time to reflect on the lessons of the past winter.
At the Winter meeting in January, Doreen Watler of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency spoke to us about tree pests and diseases. Ms. Watler has a Ph.D. in entomology and is the National Manager of the Plant Health Risk Assessment Unit for the Agency. Employing an array of slides, posters and fact sheets, she described the signs, symptoms and consequences of diseases such as sudden oak death and butternut canker, and infestation by "exotic" insect pests such as beech scale, the emerald ash borer, the brown spruce longhorn beetle and the Asian long-horned beetle. The audience had a chance to inspect several (dead) specimens in glass jars. Thinking about the damage these insects might do, I am content to wait a few more weeks for spring, in the hope that the cold might kill off any "early risers" that may have found their way to eastern Ontario. Further information on tree pests and diseases is available on-line.
Three speakers addressed our Annual General Meeting in March.
Mark Richardson of the Eastern Ontario Model Forest discussed invasive plant species, sparking a lively debate over the risks and benefits of many plants introduced to eastern Ontario through European settlement. All agreed that the Manitoba maple, whether native to this part of Ontario or introduced, certainly qualifies as invasive.
Historian Patrick Coyne spoke about the ways in which settlement changed the landscape of the South Nation watershed, showing us in old photographs how the forests were cut to clear the land for agriculture and to build the ships, houses and barns of the nineteenth century. He concluded on an optimistic note by describing his own efforts to rehabilitate abandoned farmland by planting thousands of trees. Mr. Coyne has written a book on the topic entitled Reflections of the South Nation Watershed: A Pictorial History of Its People and Natural Resources. Proceeds from the sale of the book, which is available from the South Nation Conservation Authority, will be used for planting trees, protecting wetlands, enhancing fish habitat and improving water quality throughout the watershed.
Our final speaker was Roman Popadiouk who discussed nut culture in European history and its impact on the natural landscape of that continent. Roman described the work of F.W.M. Vera in a book entitled Grazing Ecology and Forest History. (2000, CABI Publishing). During the middle ages, Europeans cultivated nut trees in their forests to support large numbers of pigs, cattle and other large animals. With the advent of cereals and other animal feeds, these practices came to an end and forest grazing was abandoned in favour of pastures and feedlots. The authors contend that an acre of forest could support many more animals than an acre of pasture.
Finally, a word about an exciting new guide to trees written by a local author. Glen Blouin, who lives in the Gatineau Hills, has written an informative and inspirational book entitled An Eclectic Guide to Trees East of the Rockies. He devotes 3 or 4 pages each to the characteristics of some 45 tree species, including seven nut trees, most of which grow in this area. The book is a high-quality paperback featuring excellent full-colour photographs. Mr. Blouin attended our Annual General Meeting and signed several copies of his book.
I thank all of our winter speakers and authors for their lively and engaging presentations. Until the weather warms, we have plenty to read and think about.
Are You Completely Nuts?
Irene Broad sent The Nuttery the article of this title by Rebecca Potts, which appears in The Organic Way of the UK. It makes some useful points for those of us who love nut trees. Besides, it begins with the delightful subtitle: "Nut trees aren't widely planted in the UK, which is simply - nuts"!
Oak and beech trees are in the family Fagaceae, and fagus is the Greek verb 'to eat'. Beech nuts and acorns are called mast by wildlife ecologists, from maesten, 'to fatten domestic animals'. In Saxon times, an estate was valued by the number of pigs it could feed, and English oak (Quercus robur) was one of the most valuable trees of all.
The article has a preparation method for beechnuts: roast them in an oven until the skins come off easily by rubbing them between two cloths, then shake them in a coarse colander to get rid of the hairy down. Sprinkle them with salt, dry them in a cool oven, then keep them in sealed jars. Besides flavoursome nuts, they make a coffee substitute and an excellent cooking oil.
For white oak acorns, while noting our First Peoples' method of leaching out tannin by leaving them in running water for some time, the article suggests roasting them with sugar then using them anywhere one might use almonds.
Juglans regia is a recent introduction to England (barely a thousand years ago) as its old English name 'wealh hnutu', foreign nut, indicates. Ms. Potts notes that Juglans regia trees must be spaced 40-50' apart for health. She recommends to remove the husk immediately the nuts fall to avoid staining the kernel, to dry the kernels, then to store them in earthenware pots layered with a 50:50 mix of coconut fiber and salt. Another option is the Greek method of preserving them in honey.
In her note, Irene confirms the 50' spacing with regard to old Juglans nigra trees which she observed on a farm in the Simcoe area, which have self-thinned to about that spacing.
Following requests from several attendees of the AGM, here is the recipe for the macaroons I baked for the meeting:
1 large egg
1/2 cup white sugar
about 2/3 cup ground nuts
1 oz flavourful fat/oil
Mix with a spoon. The result should be a wet dough - a bit too wet to roll it into balls with your fingers but close. Spoon out in teaspoon to tablespoon size (depending on preference) onto a cookie sheet. Bake until just brown on the edges, about 15 minutes at 325 F. Let cool, then enjoy. Foolproof!
One of the varieties I baked for the AGM used butternuts and an ounce of unsweetened chocolate. The other used hazelnuts with a clove of garlic and an ounce butter.
I have tried blenders, coffee grinders and nut choppers, but find the best is to put the nut meats through an old-fashioned hand-cranked meat grinder. Put the chocolate, garlic, or whatever in first, then the nuts, then just enough dry bread to clean out the grinder.
Local Walnut Bread
Murray Spearman notes that the new Loblaws in Barrhaven now carries loaves of Walnut bread made by Stonemill brand. He bought a loaf to try and found it very good.
$300 Nutculture Prize
Are you a college student (or do you know one) in the Eastern Ontario region? Are you studying trees? Are you aware that nut trees are an important and growing segment of Eastern Ontario forests and homes?
The Alec and Kathleen Jones Foundation offers a nut culture prize of $300 to Eastern Ontario college students. The prize is offered annually, and given to the student whose paper on nut culture is chosen as the winner. The deadline for submitting is May 31.
The winner will receive the prize money in June, and be invited to present the paper at the following Winter Gathering of the Eastern Chapter of the Society of Ontario Nut Growers (ECSONG) held on the third Saturday of January.
For more information on the prize, call Hank Jones at 613-231-4224.
Get Cracking !
ECSONG has a message for everyone in the Eastern Ontario region: nut trees grow here! Nut trees are the supreme trees - they do all the good of other trees, plus they produce the most nutritious of fruit and the most valued of wood. Everyone should be planting nut trees wherever trees can grow, in town and out. Lets get the message out!
Our 'Nutty Phone Tree' can be busy getting members, family and friends to meetings and field days. It can encourage us all to take personal initiative to be sure that our neighbours know about these opportunities, and are invited along. Call John Adams to get on board the NPT express!
Everyone should know about our 'Nutty Kids Program', so the whole family attends meetings and field days. Not just a babysitter, the program teaches kids about nut trees. Be a kid again, and call Khristina Popadiouk to help with this program.
Many folks have space to spare for nut trees. You can meet them at the numerous home, farm and trade shows in the region. Take the ECSONG display to any show you can. Call John Adams to get it.
Our nut groves are our best promotion and education tool. New comers should outnumber members at our field days. Youngsters should outnumber adults! Come out to the field days of the grove of your choice. Volunteer to help get the public to our spring and fall field days.
The Forest Gene Conservation Association is struggling to save the endangered Butternut from canker. We are an active partner: the Eastern Ontario Butternut Archive is at our Oak Valley Nut Grove. Join us to save a magnificent native Canadian tree!
For years our meetings have hosted nut goodies at intermission. Our 'Nutty Coffee Shop' is our best culinary 'show and tell'. Volunteer to bring your favourite nut delicacy to our next meeting!
Provided by ECSONG. Feel free to copy with a credit.