SONG News September 2004 no. 69
In this Issue ...

Months of Seasoning

When I resolve to look through the old note pile for important items of my past, I hardly ever find what I want, but then, I'm equally amazed at the "other" things I find. Today is the rule which proves the rule.

In any event Season 2004 started off with great promise and then became weary of high achievement very quickly and resorted to clouds, rains and cool winds thereafter. Some say the first week in September was rather nice but then I missed that because I was in Spain. So ... we have had two rather backward summers in a row. Seasons which beg the phrase ... "Get thee behind us". However my mother told me to never say such things because it's the same as wishing your life away. Yes!

Well, there are some nut crops this year. Some people have fair crops of filbert/hazels ... although I do not. Some folks have pretty good crops of heartnuts although I do not too. I think that the flower crop was very light and then the squirrels finished up the developments in early July. The squirrels seem to be lean and hungry this year. Perhaps it's a reflection of two rather small nut crops in a row. This winter may turn out to be a hard time for squirrels if the hand-out people keep their feedings under control. There may be a lot of bird feeder raids this year.

There are a few pecan crops in Ontario and there are a few at my place too. A precious few! The squirrels are attacking the few even before the kernels get to the water stage. Perhaps they needed the practice to keep their teeth from overgrowing their jaws. As usual I have a good crop of northern hardy almonds this year although it may be hard to find other examples in Ontario. It's a funny thing about these almonds ... the squirrels have only recognized them as a food source once in the last 28 years but there was no tomorrow for the remainder ... gone within 24 hours. Once in a while I will see squirrels raid the apricot trees but just for the kernels. What a shame seeing all that good apricot flesh on the ground along with pits on the half shell.

My many hickories have not let me down this year. There is great and glorious production this season. The shellbark and kingnut production is especially good as the squirrels don't seem to like the thick shells of the kingnuts until all of the other nuts are gone. It appears that there is a reason for thick shelled nuts which go beyond the talent of just making it troublesome for us humans. There was a fair crop of shagbark hickories but they are long gone on the jaws of the squirrels.

My hybrid black walnut/heartnut tree has no nuts this year. Perhaps that tells us something about the nature of many hybrids, especially in the walnut clans. Mind you a pecan/hickory cross known as "underwood" has a pretty good crop this year and has done so for the last 10 years. The nuts germinate too and make quite good seedlings. It's interesting to watch hybrid vigour in the real as opposed to that theory stuff. Some of the trees seedlings are extra/extra vigorous and some stay as dwarfs forever. Who knows!? Keep in mind my place has a great variety of hickories and pecans. I have sold oodles of those hybrid seedlings and I would like to live long enough to see the results of those seedlings. On the other hand, I did live long enough to se the results of 30 seedlings of the hybrid "Desmoines" a pecan/shellbark tree. There was nothing worth keeping. A few achieved some thin shelled nuts which looked like shag-bark hickory with absolutely no kernel.

Some of the black and English walnuts may have fair crops and others zippo. Many of the black walnuts look healthy in spite of the rainy/anthracnose etc. type of weather. Some growers who specialized in spray programs may have some blight free English walnuts. I should not forget the chestnuts. They have truly a large crop in most places. The rainstorms of August/September do miracles for chestnut kernel development. It would have helped to have a bit more of the sun side ... but designer summers are not yet available.
Doug Campbell

Grafting Vegetables
The Avant Gardner

Grafting non-woody plants is not a new idea. Giant gourds we reproduced in China the 15th century. But now research is being devoted to its principles and techniques. A workshop at this year's annual meeting of the American Society for Horticultural Science revealed that herbaceous grafting is becoming common in Israel, Spain, Holland, Japan, and South Korea for melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. Many researchers in America are studying it, and the University of Arizona reports that hydroponic tomato growers are rapidly adopting the use of grafted seedlings.

Grafting on resistant rootstocks protects plants from soil borne diseases. It can also give them more vigorous root systems that can take up more nutrients and water to increase yields. A global search for rootstocks is going on, even more intensely than the hunt for rootstock for fruit & nut trees. Wild species of many plants are being tested as root-stocks. Conversely, older varieties such as heirloom tomatoes are being grafted onto modem cultivars that have been bred to resist root diseases.

Many methods of grafting work well on herbaceous plants; grafts often "take" even if the scion and rootstock are not precisely aligned. Grafting machines are being developed for large scale grafting of vegetables, and proper temperature and humidity conditions are being worked out. Grafted vegetable slants are expected to be available for gardeners in spring at gardening centres in a few a few years. Gardeners who want to experiment might try grafting heirloom onto modern tomato varieties, or perhaps a squash vine onto a particularly vigorous growing gourd root-stock.

Editor's Note: Soft plant tissue can be difficult to work with at times. The saddle graft and inverted saddle graft work well for thick stems such as geraniums. The approach graft may work well for thin stems. The use of metal "hair clips" will help solve the problem of holding the scion and rootstock together without crushing the stems. Clothes pins with a spring in them might work, but I generally found the spring to be too strong and it crushed the stems. Once the graft has been made they can be placed in a mist system until they have grown together. If you don't have a mist system, place the grafted plants in a clear plastic bag in order to maintain a high humidity. Of course, with the approach graft, the healing takes place before the root system is cut away gradually.
Reprinted from the Nut Growers News of the Iowa Nut Growers Association.

Travels With Doug
Moonbeams from Mallorca

It was my pleasure and privilege to visit the "Big Whale " Island in September 2004. In addition to having affluent, high rise urban districts filled with the usual British pubs and Brits watching back-ome soccer games on huge screen t.v., there is a fairly large farm district in the middle of the island, and they grow almost everything you could imagine. The tourist bureau claims that they produce all the fruit and vegetables consumed on the island. My search of the many grocery stores turned up only one case of mangoes from Brazil and a crate of Pineapple from an unidentified source. Local kiwis and pistachios were pretty good ... citrus of all kinds and melons ... melons of many types that I'd never seen before. It is true that travelling is broadening ... and that is before you get to the pasta. The Mallorca airport handles about 4000 incoming and 4000 outgoing passengers per hour. Airport inspection is something else. Some would say they do it all without eye contact, hi any event there are a lot of tourists to feed on a rather small island. They seem to be doing it well as the tourists keep coming back ... 400 passengers to the plane load.
Doug Campbell

Heartnut Sausage

1 cup white bread crumbs
1/4 tsp celery salt
1/4 cup margarine, softened
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup rice, cooked
1/2 tsp dry, crumbled sage
1-1/2 cup heartnuts
1/4 tsp thyme, dried -chopped
3 Tbsp parsley, fresh or dried
2 Tbsp onions, finely grated
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a large jowl, tossing together to blend thoroughly. Form into round patties, not too tightly packed. Fry quickly in hot oil on both sides so a light crust is formed. Reduce heat and cook about eight minutes or until done, turning once. Serve with a warm cheese sauce.

A Nut to Love
Ernie Grimo

The heartnut (Juglans ailantifolia var. cordiformis) is one of the most misunderstood and underdeveloped species in the nut world. Even in its native areas in Japan, it is almost neglected as a food producing tree much as the black walnut and butternut are neglected here in Canada.

The heartnut is considered to be a natural "sport" or genetic oddity of the much more common Japanese walnut (Juglans ailantifolia). Almost all of the characteristics of the two trees are identical except for the shape of the nut. Instead of the normal egg-shaped nut with cramped internal kernel cavities, the heartnut is a flattened locket or heart shape, thus the name "heartnut". This heartnut form appears to be quite unstable genetically. A heartnut seed planted to grow a tree will just as likely produce a normal Japanese walnut as it will a heart shaped nut. Even the heart shape and nut size are quite variable from tree to tree grown from the same parent stock. Some are almost perfect "valentine" heart shaped while others can be narrow and almost round, lacking any resemblance to the heart shape. Heartnuts can vary in nut size from penny size to almost silver dollar size. Variability is so great that one would think that, "God isn't finished with this tree yet!"

It is this variability that offers us the challenge. By planting many seedling trees from good heartnut parents, we can then select the trees that have our desired characteristics. Surprisingly, it isn't the outside shape we care about. It is the inside shape of the cavity where the kernel is situated that is most important. The cavity must be dish-shaped with no shell structures that can pinch and hold the kernel. The kernel can then fall out easily in one or two pieces. One grower planted several thousand trees from good heartnut parent sources and found only two that meet this criteria. Most of our best cultivars have only been selected in the last 20 years from such seedling plantings.

Once improved cultivars are identified, they can be reproduced endlessly by grafting. The grafting is accomplished by taking a dormant branch (scion) with one or two vegetative buds from the selected cultivars and surgically uniting the scion to a seedling root-stock. Once this is accomplished, the bud on the scion opens and grows into the top of the tree. Since the scion contains only the genetic material of the original tree it can only produce nuts like that parent tree. The rootstock on the other hand only provides the top with water and nutrients that it gets from the soil.

People who taste the heartnut for the first time are immediately impressed with the mild sweet walnut flavour. Most notice that there is no bitter aftertaste often found in the English (Persian) walnuts that dominate the walnut industry. This flavour characteristic gives it a wider range of culinary uses than its English walnut cousin. Wide eyed taste samplers can't understand why this wonderful nut isn't available in stores commercially. So we explain that the improved cultivars are relatively new and that new plantings are slowly springing up on the lake protected shores of Lakes Ontario, Erie and Michigan. Grafted trees take 2-3 years to start producing nuts, but to get commercial production, it takes 5-8 years. This is a problem for some farmers who need to get steady income from their land. Since recommended spacing for the trees is 12 metres (40 feet), it is possible to plant other crops between the rows of heartnut trees while the trees are small.

Once established, an orchard life can be 50 to 100 years or more. To produce well, the heartnut must be protected from late spring frost conditions. The terminal bud is where the flowers are that produce the nuts. These buds open very early in the spring at which time they are very sensitive to frost. Heartnut trees do best in a maritime climate like their native Japan. Areas that have a nearby lake or ocean influence are best. Generally, they grow well wherever tender fruits can be grown. They are well adapted to cooler summers, so they don't do as well in the mid west and the hot interior of California. Under stress, they are prone to "bunch disease" a mycoplasma that affects other walnuts also. All of the dormant buds burst producing many branches close together resembling a broom. This is a fairly rare, slow moving disease that has no biological control but if caught early enough can be pruned out.

The heartnut is a close relative of our native butternut (Juglans cinerea). Not only does it cross readily with the butternut, but the hybrids, called 'buartnuts' take on the hardiness of the butternut and the healthy vigorous habit of the heartnut, but unfortunately most often the hard cracking shell of the butternut. A small number of these crosses produce nuts that release the kernel fairly easily, making them suitable for colder climates away from the maritime influence that heartnuts prefer. Maybe one day a hybrid will be developed that has all of the characteristics of our best heart-nuts and the hardiness of our native butternut.

Since the heartnut drops to the ground when it is ripe in late September to mid October, it is easily handled by existing harvesting hand tools and powered equipment used for other kinds of nuts. Like other nuts, they are hulled, washed and dried after harvesting. Cracking machines and sorting machines can be used to separate the kernels from the shell. Even the shell has numerous uses from crafts to mulch and when ground up can be used like black walnut shell as a polishing compound for bearings and fine surfaces. Like English walnuts, the heart-nut keeps best in the shell, but without refrigeration, only the heartnut will keep up to a year or more and may even improve in flavour much as a good wine matures with age. Once cracked most nuts will keep at best quality for only a few weeks without refrigeration, with it, they will keep a few months longer. For longer storage nuts should be kept in the freezer where fresh quality will remain for a year or more. It is the oils that change over time causing them at first to go stale and then rancid. "Stale" is the best quality that most shoppers experience when purchasing in-shell and shelled nuts in the supermarket. It is no wonder that North Americans use fewer tree nuts per capita than Europeans who know fresh quality and insist on it.

In many areas the heartnut can be grown organically. It has few pests and diseases. The normal leafhoppers and aphids don't bother it. Aside from the Gypsy moth which attacks all trees, if the heartnut is near wild butternut trees, an insect called the butternut curculio can be a problem. Even the walnut husk maggot is not a serious pest. In fact, the large healthy green compound leaves and the wide spreading form of the tree give it a wonderful tropical appearance even late in the season when other trees are showing the effects of insects and weather.

Not only is the heartnut tasty, but it is also one of the best nuts for good health. Nuts have been recommended by the World Health Organization recently as part of a global plan to fight obesity. It was found that people who eat nuts regularly are less likely to gain weight. The nutrition found in nuts tends to make them feel full longer. They tend to naturally eat fewer calories in later meals after feeling satisfied from eating nuts. The English walnut is touted as heart and cancer healthy. The heartnut has all of the good qualities of the English walnut plus. The heartnut like many other nuts provide important health benefits. Heartnuts are lower in total energy, but they provide 60% more protein and 33% of the saturated fat of English walnut. The most outstanding characteristic of the heartnut is its very high level of fibre. It has more than double the fibre of English walnut. In fact, heartnut has more fibre than any other commercial nut. Though 83.5% of calories are from fat, 96% of the fats in heart-nuts (90% for English walnuts) are polyunsaturated fats that have been proven to be beneficial to health.

Nuts have erroneously been relegated to the snack aisle. Though they make excellent snacks, they have a place in all aspects of a meal. The heartnut has much to offer in this total diet.

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