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Discussing: Nut Producing Trees

Nut Producing Trees

OK, question for the horticulturally minded.

What kinds of nut trees could reasonably be assumed to grow in the Shire? I'm assuming hazelnuts (filberts) as they grow like weeds in the Pacific Northwest, which is about the same climate as the Shire (a bit wetter perhaps). What about:

Almonds
Walnuts
Pecans
whatever else.

Thanks!

Ang

 

 

Re: Nut Producing Trees

I generally assume that the Shire's climate resembled England.

The English walnut, of course.

Almond trees can grow there, although the nuts often don't fully ripen.

Hazel nuts, certainly.

Pecans - I don't think so. They're an American native, tend to be southerly iirc, and might not have even been domesticated until after Europeans got to the Americas, again iirc.

Beech - the nuts (mast) were often eaten by pigs, but people ate them too.

Chestnuts - again, grown in Britain but due to the cool climate didn't always ripen fully.

Acorns from the oak can be eaten, although they've normally been considered a food for times of famine. It takes some leaching to get the nasties out.

Can't think of any more at the moment...

Celandine

 

 

Re: Nut Producing Trees

Pine trees produce nuts, although they're probably famine food, again. Some other things which might be worth considering as well (if you're after a "nutty" taste, or after things which might be eaten as nuts):

Sunflower seeds
Various grains (for example, wheat, rye, barley, oats)
Beans (particularly borlotti-style beans, which are supposed to have a rather "nutty" flavour)

Biologically, all a nut is, after all, is a particular type of seed, where they've been selected for various characteristics - generally starchiness and taste. So any other type of seed could be used as a substitute.

More horticultural notes (all taken from the nearest book handy, and are tuned to Australian conditions):

* Almonds need winter frost, in order to set fruit (rather like anything else from that family - peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots... all the same family, it's just that with almonds, we're eating the seed, not the seed husk - presumably you could also use peach, apricot, plum etc kernels in moderation), and then a reasonably warmish temperate climate.
* Barley likes a fairly neutral (ie not acid or alkaline) soil, with a moderate humus content. The grain is nuttier in taste than rice, and is fairly easy to grow. It's also the grain at the core of whisk(e)y, so it might be grown for the homebrew potential.
* Beech trees are cold-tolerant, and fairly hardy. The nuts can be used for oil as well as for fodder.
* Chickpeas - they'll grow wherever you can grow peas.
* Gourd or pumpkin seeds (unless you're going to be fairly rigid about what the Númenoreans couldn't have imported from the Americas)
* Hazelnuts can handle cold through temperate climates, but do better grafted than they do as seedlings. They can be hedged, and a single hazelnut tree on its own can reach about 7m in height.
* Horse Chestnuts (aka "conkers") - these are traditionally used for a type of flour, after much soaking. Cold - temperate climates.
* Millet (another starvation grain - it produces, and can be used for humans, but it's not the world's most nutritious or tasty grain).
* Walnuts (temperate - cold conditions, do best in areas with mild, light frosts).

Okay, okay, Ang, you got me. My *next* research article, gods help me, will probably be something about cropping plant varieties for the Shire and Bree...

damn..

Meg
--


 

 

Re: Nut Producing Trees

Pecans - I don't think so. They're an American native, tend to be southerly iirc, and might not have even been domesticated until after Europeans got to the Americas, again iirc.

I believe this is correct. And even in Southern California they don't ripen well as there is insufficient heat. They need desert type heat. They'd probably do well in Harad, but not the Shire.


Lyllyn

 

 

Re: Nut Producing Trees

Celandine & Meg have produced a very comprehensive list! The only other nut trees I can think of are butternut and hickory, which are rather obscure anyways.

(Just as an aside - they grow pecans in Ontario, so it can be done in a cold climate. But those are special cultivars, and don't mature as large as the southern pecans.)

 

 

Re: Nut Producing Trees

Looks like a pretty good list... if you have any questions about trees, forestry or silviculture, I am a professional forester, so I have to know this stuff for work and stuff...

The pecan is an american native but is also a Carya like pignut, shagbark and bitternut hickory. Butternut (Juglans cinera) is related to walnut (Juglans nigra), and can reasonably be expected to have relatives growing in the Shire 'at the time'.

There are also several european beeches that could have been growing and the chestnut (Castenea dentata) that americans had at the turn of the century (sadly almost eradicated by chestnut blight) is not the tree you see growing in most yards. I am not certain if there is a european chestnut species, but the one most often used to replace it in the US is chinese chestnut, and it is also very prevalent in Europe today. I am not certain when it would have been brought over, but it is most definitely of asian origin.

Ariel

 

 

Re: Nut Producing Trees

I'm fairly certain there is a European chestnut. (Horse chestnut?) Don't have my reference book (Brother Cadfael's Herb Garden, amazingly useful thing) to check for sure right now.

Cel

 

 

Re: Nut Producing Trees

Of course I'm going to be really picky -- tho' I prefer "pedantic" -- and make the distinction between native trees and imports. And all this is full of subjective observation.

Many trees that are naturalized are actually foreign, not native, to the areas they thrive. Some got there by being originally onthe same continent which later split, where they developed into different species or subspecies, and others were carried by people, with greater or less success. Some things will grow, but not thrive, or never attain full height or lifespan.

Also, these subspecies aren't always the same at all. As far as I've been able to determine, the American "paper birch" or "canoe birch" is the only one in the world with bark that can be taken off in big sturdy rolls like waterproof cardboard that can be used to make boxes, which fact nearly tripped me up once. (No birchbark anything afaik in Middle-earth!)

Almonds are Asian imports that do ok in Europe (Almonds are closely related to peaches and apricots, but the peaches around almonds are essentially inedible and the stones of peaches have too much cyanide, though attempts have been made to create viable hybrids that have 2-in-1 yield) so we need to decide who would have brought them from elsewhere in the continent, for the parallel-universe of Arda.

This is true, in fact, of many plants -- tulips, frex, come from Persia -- though there are also local subspecies -- lilacs have asian forms and european forms (there are also European and Asian forms of bugs like Luna Moths, called Moon moths over there) , both of which do well in the same environments (we can grow both types together in the northern US. The lilacs that is, not the moths.)

I tend to think of much plant matter being brought by the original colonists, and some things being traded during the time of the Kings, especially if Ithilien was under Gondor's rule, and then later less of organic materials, though still some, but by then things should be well established in the shire, so that people won't even think necessarily of orchards as being something artificial and eating-apples as "brought there."

Those cute little apples and pears in Della Robbia wreaths and renassance paintings btw are *real*. I've eaten them in england, the "lady apples" and the little gold pears that I can't remember the name. They're exquisite, far more flavorful than the big Delicious. Wild grapes can also be excellent - sweet, but not too sweet, and with a flavor/fragrance like roses. And there are these things called ribes which I think are the same as currants, or "raisins de Corance" as they call them in the medieval cookbooks, which make a disgustingly sticky-sweet juice drunk as a natural coolade by British kids -- it's tolerable when mixed with gingerale, though.

But this is getting a little OT from nuts. Hazelnuts are very big in Europe -- Nutella, anyone? -- and you can grind them like almonds into flour, then bake cakes and cookies from the flour if you adjust the recipe for the added oil. One reason nuts are such valuable food items is that they have a great deal of natural fat. Hazelnuts are also, btw, extremely addictive...they shell pretty easily, and they aren't hard to chew. Almonds ditto, but for some reason I like rocher better than mandeln -- it might be the rind on almonds--I find blanching them boring. I am however equally addicted to marzipan...

Pine-nuts are bigger in mediterranean cookery -- I mean this both ways, tho' you probably know that already, Ang! Pine seeds in norhtern temperate climates tend to be rather flat and dinky, and very hard to extract - there are those wierd birds in temperate woods called crossbills which I am informed are designed to do just that, (making me wonder what sabertooth tigers were designed to eat...)

According to my research, (poking around on google a while back) *beech* would probably be of larger importance in terms of food than pine in the Shire. The nuts are harvested in late October in America at least, and can be pressed for oil. I've never had beech-nuts, though I've had fresh roasted chestnuts in Italy (no, I'm not really a world-traveler!) and they were very nice - mildly sweet, mealy, reminded me *a bit* of a baked sweet-potato.

Here are some interesting sites about Continental plants which people might find helpful:

European Beech - brief factoid, w/photos

Slovakia Primaeval Forests - v. impressive photos

Northamptonshire Wildlife, with photos and sounds - no trees, but quite a few wildflowers & birds here

The Ash Tree in Indo-European Culture - neat, if eerie, stuff applying science to myth

 

 

Re: Nut Producing Trees

Actually, here's a little input on the pine nut issue.........I used to hunt them as a kid, we used to roast them every year. Though all pine trees produce an edible nut, they are not very apetizing always. The Piñon nut however; is not only edible, but very popular..... from the Rocky Mountains, to Thailand, in it's different species' varieties. It is sought after very highly in addditions to all sorts of oriental dishes and in colder climates, it is roasted and salted, and eaten like peanuts would be.It was even ground and made into bread.

It would be stupid to say that it has a "nutty" flavor, but it does..... a very rich flavor.

The nut, once peeled is light golden, but be warned! Do not pop them into your mouth before peeling! The skin-like shell is soft and very edible, but it's black, so the nut itself, If you go searching for piñon nuts on the forrest floor, greatly resembles deer droppings. So it is unadviseable to snack as you go until you have peeled them all and are sure of what you have. I hunted piñon nuts for years and never came thru a harvest without at least one "fake" nut ;-P

Gilgamesh

 

 

Re: Nut Producing Trees

Of course I'm going to be really picky -- tho' I prefer "pedantic" -- and make the distinction between native trees and imports.

Thank you! In my field I work with non-native invasives and non-native naturalized species all the time. People are often shocked to see what plants that we commonly see (like most of the turf grasses) are non-native to the US.

Unfortunately, my expertise is limited to knowing what is non-native to the US - I am less familiar with species that would have been non-native to Europe. Does anyone have a suggestion for a good book on native european species and their herbal uses? I noted the Brother Cadfael book but I was looking for something more along the lines of a Pederson's Guide?

Ariel

 

 

Re: Nut Producing Trees

> As far as I've been able to determine, the American "paper birch" or "canoe birch" is the only one in the world with bark that can be taken off in big sturdy rolls like waterproof cardboard that can be used to make boxes, which fact nearly tripped me up once.

Okay, this is COMPLETELY off-topic (bad Forodwaith! bad!) but I just finished reading a book about the Iceman - the late Stone Age man discovered frozen with all of his belongings in the Alps - and he had a kindling/tinder container made of birchbark. So there must be some comparable European species...

(BTW, the book was The Man in the Ice by Konrad Spindler. Despite a poor translation from the original German, it was a fascinating read, full of details on Stone Age technology.)

 

 

Re: Nut Producing Trees

Thank you! In my field I work with non-native invasives and non-native naturalized species all the time. People are often shocked to see what plants that we commonly see (like most of the turf grasses) are non-native to the US.

Yeah, the four shrubs most common in the NE, which are the most distinctive in the landscape, are all imports I realized - lilac, hydrangea, forsythia, and azalea - which really makes for a mental leap when looking at old houses and trying to imagine how they were in colonial times. Some of the lilacs would have been there, very small, because there are a few that are around 300 years old. But what else would have been there, without some kind of first hand contemporary notes describing plantings, is a lot tougher.

Unfortunately, my expertise is limited to knowing what is non-native to the US - I am less familiar with species that would have been non-native to Europe. Does anyone have a suggestion for a good book on native european species and their herbal uses? I noted the Brother Cadfael book but I was looking for something more along the lines of a Pederson's Guide?

Ariel


I saw some years ago in England that I wanted to buy, but couldn't afford - the equivalent of the Audobon field guides - but now I imagine one could buy them via Amazon.uk if one had the money. If any of the European members could recommend pariticular ones (pref with photographs) that would indeed be a big help -- not just to writers, but also to artists -- I first ran into this problem in jr high working on sketches for a Celtic fantasy, and realizing that I didn't know what a rowan looked like, or a "harebell".

However, the internet is a big help nowdays, in that you can google for species and places and often get images, or regional sites even. (frex I found the particular species of lizards I saw in Italy that way, which I couldn't find in the usual reptile books.)

 

 

Re: Nut Producing Trees

Okay, this is COMPLETELY off-topic (bad Forodwaith! bad!) but I just finished reading a book about the Iceman - the late Stone Age man discovered frozen with all of his belongings in the Alps - and he had a kindling/tinder container made of birchbark. So there must be some comparable European species...

(BTW, the book was The Man in the Ice by Konrad Spindler. Despite a poor translation from the original German, it was a fascinating read, full of details on Stone Age technology.)



Hmm - I wonder if there still are, or if they were common on both continents in prehistoric times, as iirc were beavers (and camels and wooly rhinos as well as mammoths,) but died off in Europe due to climate change. The birch that is currently called European Birch has papery bark, but it peels off like onion skin, not in a big sheet.

The migration of plant species is a very interesting thing to me -- I remember noticing little "herds" of oak trees out in the hills of CA a few years ago and realizing that indeed, they were behaving rather like buffalo: clumping down in the shelter of the slope, around the dip where water collects, and slowly stringing out further down to another "watering hole." Of course, the movement wasn't of individuals, but of new offspring.

What food species could survive or adapt to climate change would be very important for a pre-industrial culture that couldn't ship food from elsewhere. It doesn't have to be killing, either. Maple syrup, for instance, is a product which requires particular combinations of weather at just the right time - sugar maple trees survive fine , they just don't produce the right kind of sap if it's too warm or too cold.

 

 

Re: Nut Producing Trees

Celandine said, Acorns from the oak can be eaten, although they've normally been considered a food for times of famine. It takes some leaching to get the nasties out.


O good, this is just the information I was looking for. Do you happen to know the process used to get the nasties out? I know the Native Americans used to grind acorns to get a kind of bitter powder, but really know little about the prepartion besides that. Soaking in something, perhaps?

Thanks for any light you can shed on this!
Lindelea

 

 

Re: Nut Producing Trees

How to use acorns as food - http://members.aol.com/_ht_a/keninga/acorn.htm.


Avon

 

 

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