SONG News January 1999 no. 54
In this Issue...

Hugh McEwan Passes Away

It is with great sadness to inform the membership of the passing of Mr. Hugh McEwan, Past President of SONG from July 1994 to July 1996.

Hugh was born in Wainfleet Ontario and moved to the Beamsville area at the age of two where he resided for the rest of his life. He died November the 25th, 1998 at the age of 78. Hugh farmed all of his life having a grape farm, and also raising hens and for years a thriving egg business. When he retired he joined his wife Joyce as an active member of SONG. Whenever there was anything to do, he and Joyce were there volunteering to lend a hand. Since retiring they both have planted many nut trees on there 1 acre retirement lot. Hugh was also an avid skater which is where he met his wife and partner Joyce. The executive and the membership of SONG will miss Hugh and all he contributed to our organization, and extend their warmest wishes to Joyce at this difficult time.

The Chestnut

English Diarist John Evelyn (1620-1706) believed the Chestnut was underrated as a food in England because of its use as fodder for pigs, and due to it's popularity with the poor. "but we give that fruit to our swine in England, which is amongst the delicacies of Princes in other countries; and being of the larger Nut, is a lusty, and masculine food for Rustics at all times. The best Tables in France and Italy make them a service, eating them with salt, in wine, being first roasted on the chapplet; and doubtless we might propagate their use, amongst our common people, at least being a food so cheap, and so lasting."

1998 Season in Review
Douglas Campbell

Well Now!... Wasn't the 1998 growing season something to write home about? It is said that there are no 2 seasons the same... that there are averages but what is normal? does anybody know where our climate is going? Is any guess worth the time to read it?

Well I won't make a fool of myself by trying to tell you what will happen next year, but the 1998 growing season started out early. Even more of interest the crops came on stream about 2 weeks early all the way through to the last ... with Pecan trees turning in a magnificent performance. Equal to Texas in a good year! The early spring / summer gave us just enough moisture to do the job but there was never much to spare. Then July came in powerfully dry and extra warm... with a few drying winds f^. thrown in too. Without irrigation and on less than deep sandy soils, many tree crops were in a bit of trouble. The irrigated lands really came in big with the nut crops. Then there are the growers like Greg Miller who got a 6" very local rain in the last week of August which made their Chestnuts the biggest, and the biggest crop ever.

Also there was a good Chestnut crop throughout most of North America, Korea, China, etc.. Since Japan has been having a bit of financial difficulty lately, they were a bit down on their purchase of fresh chestnuts and this diverted a lot of early tonnage into the North American market. Isn't it interesting that Chestnuts are considered a luxury food in Japan! Nonetheless it did depress the market prices a bit in the USA but interestingly, it did not have much of a drag at all on the Canadian Market prices. Heartnut provided an early good crop too. Nut size was a bit down on thin or non-irrigated soil. Almonds were prolific this year. English Walnuts, Carpathians, Persians etc. were a bit down below average production and Hazel's were quite light this year. Again it shows that a good year isn't necessarily good for everything. A sweet little note about Chestnut was that the sugar content was a bit higher than average...Some tasting like candy corn even! They were so sweet that in some instances where attempts were made to re-hydrate slightly dried chestnuts, the sugars started to ferment before the nuts were brought back to full moisture. This was a setback for nut growing but it may signal a new product. Chestnut Wines ... hmm I wonder what they might taste like??

Anyway, 1998 will be famous for Northern Pecan production all by itself. Everything filled! Trees which never filled nuts before were filled this year . Some nuts were huge... even as big as Texas nuts... hard to believe but true! When you get Pecans in the 50-60 nuts per pound range you know you are in business.

Also, 1998 brought out a curious thing about nut trees - they don't always ripen in the same order every year. This was particularly true of the Pecans this year. In 1998 the cultivar "Cornfield" was the earliest to start dropping, as early as Sept. 25,1998! Now that is early for Pecan and in fact, somewhat earlier than many of the local Hickory trees. Now who can explain that ? Other cultivars such as "Snag" which usually is the first to ripen, started to mature about a week after "Cornfield".. "Lucas" was a very good producer. The ending of the season was quite dry for many growers. Some rains have come in early December which may or may not be enough to tide the trees through the winter. Lets hope that the winter is warm without many stretches of cold / low humidity / drying winds.

A tough winter after a stressful dry summer can be a bad deal for a nut grove, or for that single tree in your lawn. Then there are those matters of applying mouse bait plus rabbit / deer controls for the long winter...especially if we get deep snows. So... be ever vigilante and ready for what we are dealt for next season!..

Walnut Soup

This unusual savoury soup is visually dazzling but actual very easy to make. It is eaten all year round, but is frequently as a start to many Xmas or festive feasts.
12-14 c. chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 bay leaves
5 whole allspice
1 sprig each of fresh thyme and marjoram or 1/4 tsp of each
5 Tbsp butter
1/4 c. rice flour or corn-starch
1/4 c. white flour
1 small onion cut in half
2 ribs celery chopped
1/2 leek clean & chopped
3 c. fresh walnut pieces
1 c. coarse chop walnuts
2 c. whipping cream
1 tsp ground nutmeg
salt to taste
seeds from 1 pomegranate.
In a large saucepan, heat chicken broth and add garlic, bay leaves, allspice, thyme and marjoram. Simmer 20 min. Strain hot broth and reserve. Wipe pan and melt butter in it, stir in flours until lightly browned and smooth, add hot stock 1 c. at a time, whisking constantly to make sure the broth remains smooth and thickens. Tie up onion, celery, and leek pieces in a large, triple layer of cheesecloth and place it in the soup. Simmer 20 min. Remove vegetable bag and squeeze any liquid from it into the soup. In the food processor, grind walnut pieces until fine. Add to soup along with cream, nutmeg, and salt and stir well to incorporate. Simmer 20 min. Soup should be creamy and broth or milk can be added if it thickens too much. Serve hot soup with chopped walnuts and pomegranate seeds scattered on top. For a special presentation serve it in a hollowed out pumpkin or squash.
(Ed. I have not tried this yet but I will serve it up over the holidays. Enjoy.)

Presidents Message

Happy New Year to everyone.

At our annual planning meeting for committee members last fall, we spent some time discussing the direction SONG should be taking regarding commercial production. This is important since it influences the selection of topics for meetings, newsletter articles, research projects, etc.

Feedback from members would be very helpful. We know that a great number of trees have been planted (over the past 10 years especially), at various locations around Ontario. Many of them were intended to replace a less profitable traditional crop. Results from this "modern era " of nut growing should help give us an idea of the direction we should be taking. Obviously many members have been growing trees for a longer period of time, and can provide further information and advice. Also the research plot at Simcoe is an important step in providing answers.

I plan to discuss this further at the February meeting, so if you feel you have ideas or suggestions, please come to the meeting, send your comments to the editor, or contact myself or another committee member.

Chestnut Season 1998
Paul McCully

As everyone knows 1998 was one of the warmest seasons on record. Everything was at least 2 weeks ahead of 1997, and chestnuts were no exception. Unfortunately for many areas it was also dry. In our area (Chatham Kent), July was very dry, however there was adequate rain in August. We are fortunate to be able to irrigate, so we made sure moisture was available throughout the season. Pest pressures were about the same as other years, with leafhoppers being the biggest nuisance. The dry weather also produced more mites than usual. So far blight has not shown up significantly in our orchard.

Harvest was at least 2 weeks ahead of schedule, with 142Q's beginning about September 8. Size was average to above average this year on most seedlings, as well as 142Q. Layeroka and Campbell #1 however were below average, probably due to overbearing. Last year these varieties were average to above average. Production was good this year as well, averaging just over 1000 pounds per acre. Our trees are mostly 8 years old.

Marketing results were similar to other years, however with the increased production we had to find new markets. We found consumers and retailers for the most part eager to try Ontario chest- nuts, however some people are suspicious of them at first. Once they try them though, they agree they are sweeter and better tasting than most of the imports. As in previous years we graded our chestnuts into 3 sizes. We also submersed all chestnuts in a water tank in order to wash them, and also so we could skim off all of the floaters. All sizes sold well, but interestingly our small grade was very popular this year. We sold them all to a retailer who in turn sold them for 1.50 to 1.80 per pound. The low price combined with good quality and being on the market before the imports, was probably the main reason. Selling chestnuts before the imports arrive is always much easier and more profitable than after, especially with the medium and small sizes.

We use milk crates to store chestnuts for short periods of time in our cooler. For longer term storage, (more than 2 weeks), it's best to transfer them into plastic bags with the top left open. Make sure they are cooled down though before putting them into the plastic bags, or they will sweat and remain wet in the bags. We also used woven poly bags which worked quite well. We sold 40 pound quantities in these bags. Our cooler is set as close to 0C as possible.

We continued to harvest by hand, and found that when picking every other day, it was possible to average 30 to 45 pounds per hour. We found 3 to 4 people could satisfactorily harvest our 6 acres. Because of the high temperatures in September and early October this year, it was a challenge to harvest the nuts before excessive drying took place. The above normal temperatures also speeded up the ripening time.

1998 proved to be our best year yet, and hopefully 1999 will be positive as well.

American Chestnut Museum at Burford Ontario

The Grand River Conservation Authority at it's Burford Tree nursery have established the Museum of the American Chestnut. Mr. Bruce Graham Superintendent of the Tree Nursery has embarked on a ambitious program of reestablishment of the American Chestnut. "My vision is to see this majestic giant regain its rightful place in the hardwood forests of southern Ontario if possible."

Did you know that in Southern Ontario there 7 American Chestnuts with a girth exceeding 72 in. Of these, 6 are blight free. These trees are amongst the largest in eastern North America.

The largest Chestnut in Canada is located in the Burford Township, within the Grand River Watershed. Before the Blight, there were over 2 million trees of that size in Southern Ontario.

For further information, or to make a donation to our chestnut museum, please contact Bruce Graham, Superintendent, Burford Tree Nursery, 25 With Road, Burford ON; Grand River Conservation Authority, 400 Clyde Road, P.O. Box 729, Cambridge ON

Provided by SONG. Feel free to copy with a credit.