SONG News September 2003 no. 66
In this Issue ...

Arboretum America: A Philosophy of the Forest
Diana Beresford-Kroeger,
Forward by Edward O. Wilson
Photographs by Christian H. Kroeger

Arboretum America, is at the very least, the Bible of Trees But it's ambitions are grander than that. The author, a self-described "renegade scientist" aims for no less than the salvation of the planet through the miracle of trees. There are many books on both subjects. Some warn, some inform, while others meditate on the disappearance of the forests or the meaning of trees. Few books, though, touch on all of these subjects as this book does. Coming to a bookseller near you by mid October, in Canada, from UBC Press, or from the usual internet sources.

Growing Season # 3 ... New Millennium

The legends of the language suggest that the millennium is coming. .. and the promotions to date suggest that it should be good! However, this new millennium seems to be a lot like the old. Three samples should be enough to establish some sort of trend. The spring of'03 started late and had trouble getting out of 1st gear. While Europe was "basking" in record heat waves, Ontario was quite pleasing ... fresh. The real summer may have been in August. Without the August heat wave many a nut crop would have yielded small nuts, not too well filled. Actually a warm, sunny September, punctuated by the occasional timely rain is not a bad way to bring home the nut crops. September is often the stage of final filling of the nut kernels. Lots of clear, steady sun in September is a great way of rendering the high-energy oils/proteins into tasty bright kernels. Since spring was late, cool and tardy, it was easy to excuse the late leafing of the nut trees. Most nut trees - except hazel/almond are later to leaf than most other Ontario trees. However, when the English Walnuts were not in full leaf by mid July, it started to arouse some suspicions. In the good old-fashioned way, the growers started looking more carefully at their trees. By that stage many of the twigs of the English Walnuts had started to shrivel and shrink. At the same time new shoot growth was starting to appear from large branches - 2-3 metres from terminal buds - and even from trunk/ scaffold "adventitious" buds. So ... for many of the "colder" locations the handwriting was on the sky with bare "staghorn" tops showing on many of the trees. The stag horns tell a lot about what kind of winter we had in 2002-03. It was not particularly cold and didn't set many new records in the low temperature zone. However, it was a long and steady winter with a lot of low humidity days with sunny times and drying breezes. The terminal buds simply dried out beyond the point of recall for spring '03. In some cases where trees have a very sheltered existence the drying winter damage was very much less. A year like this also points out that some soils are much more conducive to good growth of English walnuts ... that old refrain ... deep soils ... sandy loam's ... good moisture retention's and high organic matter. It's difficult to maintain high levels of winter hardiness unless the trees are healthy going into the winter seasons. Sometimes an appropriate level of fertilizations in early August actually improves the winter hardiness of trees which don't have quite enough of the phosphate/potash mix. If leaf colour is a substantial green, the use of 0-20-20 may improve winter performance ... and an added bonus.. . more flowers for the next year! If leaf colour is yellowish an applications of 5-20-20 fertilizer may give the best overall result. Simply ... apply ... and hope that the millennium is coming round your way!

Other Nut Crops
Yes, there are other nut crops and we should not get too hung up on the English walnut thing. They will come back with a few years of rest! In the meantime the heartnut crop is bulging in a number of locations. Some crops are really heavy as in the Chatham-Kent area. Imshu and CW-3 cultivars are starting to show their prowess and power. Where these trees get large, they can be truly huge! Refer to the 30 metre wide crown of that famous heartnut tree at Burlington/Old Aldershot. Several growers will have to get a cracking to bring in the heartnut crop ... and satisfy those upscale markets with prices of up to $13.00 a pound for whole kernels ... and Imshu/CWS can do that sort of thing. Yes!

Then there are the chestnuts. Some locations showed combinations of winter kill and chestnut blight and that is a bad combination. Some growers can even be cited for using winter kill to control chestnut blight. It's not really a winning strategy. .. but nonetheless, it may allow for some sense of satisfaction. Some chestnuts bloomed up to 2 weeks late after an equally slow leafing-out start in the spring. Some chestnut groves actually look pretty good now that leaves/shoots are fully extended and nuts are starting to size. If our fabulous September comes through for us (pull, pull) we may have a chestnut crop that comes up to the average line. Chestnuts are marvellous in the fact that the flowers all come out from current year weed ... and this delightful situation is further enhanced by the high probability of flowers on lateral buds. On soils where chestnuts are good, they are often very good. However, that is the catch. Growers have to cut/try/ experiment to see which fields will give the good yields and which may be mediocre.

Not much can be said about this year. Perhaps the brightest news is that we're identifying more of the types, which are resistant to filbert blight.

Yes, I leave pecans until the last as I don't want anyone to know the bias that this is my favourite nut ... actually since early teenage years ... and that is a long time! One of the great observations on pecan occurred at the SONG Summer Meeting at the McQuiggan's farm near Straffordville, Ontario. Did you see those young pecan trees, which were bearing nuts ... this year!? Yes! The nuts were good size for that stage of the summer. It is possible that pecans could become one of the best nut crops for that Simcoe-Delhi-Tillsonburg area. The McQuiggan trees are bright, healthy, dark green and have that look of assembling power. The soil where these pecans are located is lowish and loamy ... soil definitely not 1st preference for tobacco. .. and that is the prime reason why the planter. Ed Lamers put them there. Now these pecans have the full potential of becoming like those grand things of Georgia/ Louisiana/Texas at 40 or more metres in height. Of course it may take up to 100 years to get there but I'm sure that the McQuiggans are up to it! Just keep in mind that the McCullys of Chatham/Kent have achieved pecans, which are 17 metres high after 13 growing seasons. I hope to see the McQuiggan pecans in the 1st week in October 2003 to see how these new trees on the block are filling/maturing their nuts. I have noticed with other very young pecan trees - 5 metres high and smaller, that many of the little nut lets have fallen off since mid summer.

Did you know that most nut crops have four (4) major abortion/drop "periods" from flower time to harvest?? There are a lot of hoops and hurdles that a wee nut kernel has to go through to go from the flowers of a cool spring to the awaiting taste buds and teeth of a hungry consumer. Almonds. Yes, there is an almond crop in Ontario ... about the usual amount and it's interesting that at this Niagara location there has been an average or better crop since 1981. Furthermore, the Agriculture people have declared me a plum pox free zone. D. Campbell

Thanks to SONG
Dear Bruce,
About 15 years ago I attended a SONG meeting at a fantastic century farm in Vineland and came away with two things.
1. Several hazelnut seeds that I planted . They are now good size trees that yield crops that I never get one nut out of because squirrels in Downtown Toronto are not controllable without risking a jail term.
2. I saw for the first time in my life an Asimina triloba (American PawPaw) and tasted the fruit. I was very impressed and planted two seeds . Later I bought 2 more seedlings from a mail order nursery in Manitoba. I now have 4 Pawpaws .The largest is about 20 feet tall. This year after about 6 years of flowering but never setting fruit, I have my first fruit. In gratitude to SONG I have rejoined after more than a decade.
Jonathan Krehm, Toronto

The Other Major Meeting for Nut Growers

In mid July/03 there was another celebration of nut growing at East Lansing, Michigan in the form of the Northern Nut Growers Association. East Lansing and the Michigan Nut Growers Association picked up this one at the "last minute" - but it was big and beautiful! Above and beyond the delightful eating opportunities there were several tours worthy of note. The Michiganders have a chestnut peeling machine at the Rinkle farm. It's a devise, which will take the shells off chestnuts and leave the kernels in sparkling sunshine yellow, whole pieces. It's a labour saver and it converts chestnut marketing to that ... "out of the plastic bag and into the pot stage" ... which consumers seem to prefer. Since consumers are also the ultimate buyers of nuts, that's a worthy observation. Also, the peeled kernels can be frozen and thereby the shelf like of fresh chestnuts goes from a few days to months ... perhaps even a few years! Most of the NNGA people thought the quality of the product tasted pretty good ... but then of course, they are nut growers.

At the beginning of the peeling process there is a flaming chamber which is equivalent to a very quick toasting. This treatment fills the peeling shed with a delightful aroma ... which if the public were allowed to view/sense all this ... it just might stimulate that chain reaction known as spending cash! Anyway, keep an eye on this development as it will increase the financial advantages in growing chestnuts ... and several Ontario growers have discovered already that chestnut is a cash crop. Other tours showed the range of success in nut growing across very similar latitudes in Michigan. For example all the nut crops at the Benton Harbor planting of the Michigan State University were doing just fine. The Chinese (sweet) chestnuts were sensational. Many of the filberts were good and a few had filbert blight ... in spite of their elite background ... but then, few things are perfect. Heartnuts had a heavy, heavy crop. From this view, you might say that Michigan is nut grower heaven for tree farming. However, at the Mo. Veenstra farm at Williamston, Michigan the same types of chestnut are showing much evidence of chestnut blight and winter injury. Those two "problems" often team up to do the double whammy on chestnut crops. Nonetheless, numerous growers have mastered one of those problems by using winter injury to eliminate chestnut blight. Our ancient Italian friends might refer to it as pyrrhic victory all over again - or was that Yogi Bera?? I will leave to SONG readers to think/ponder with their world Atlases why there are such differences over a few kilometres of territory. Of course, interested SONG growers could take out a membership in the NNGA and get numerous viewpoints and annual meeting reports for one small price.

Wolfgang Puck's Braised Chestnuts Recipe
2 pounds chestnuts
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1 cup port wine
3 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
Heat heavy saucepan. Add the oil, butter and chopped onions. When onions turn slightly brown, deglaze with port wine. Add thyme, chestnuts, chicken stock and a little salt and pepper. Cover and cook until chestnuts are tender and the chestnuts have absorbed most of the liquid. Serve as whole braised chestnuts or pass through a ricer and make a wonderful chestnut purée. Yield: 6 servings

Shellbark Cake

1 level cup of butter
2 cups of sugar
1 cup of milk
3 even cups of flour
6 egg whites
3 whole eggs beaten separately
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 cup of shellbark kernels, chopped fine
Cream the butter and sugar. Add milk and gradually stir in the flour and baking powder, then egg whites and lastly one cup of shellbark kernels, chopped fine, stirred in gently. Bake in pound cake mold.
Mrs. F. B. Wisecaner

Chestnut Soup With Amaretto Recipe

2 pounds fresh chestnuts
2 carrot
2 parsnip
1 onion, small
1 garlic clove
2 scallion
3 celery stalk
4 Tbsp butter
5 cups brown stock
1 bouquet garni
3 Tbsp Amaretto liqueur
1 cup cream, heavy
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Dash cayenne pepper
Dash nutmeg
Make a slash in the rounded side of each chestnut and roast in a preheated 400°F oven for 5 minutes. Peel off the shell and inner skin. Peel the carrots, parsnip, onion, and garlic. Finely chop all of the vegetables, including the seal-lions and celery. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the vegetables and cook for five minutes, or until soft but not brown. Add the chestnuts, stock, and bouquet garni. Gently simmer the soup for 40 minutes, or until the chestnuts are very soft. Remove the bouquet garni and puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Return the soup to the saucepan, adding the amaretto, two-thirds of the cream, and salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and nutmeg to taste; the soup should be very flavourful. If a sweeter flavour is desired, add a spoonful of brown sugar. To serve, ladle the chestnut soup into warmed bowls. Pour a little of the remaining cream into each bowl and marble it into the soup, stirring with a skewer. Chestnut soup is extremely rich, so keep the rest of the meal simple. Yield: 8 servings. (Recipe from Washington Post)

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