As much as I love the rhythms and routines of canning and making jam, there’s something about the slow, quiet act of cracking and picking apart nuts that speaks to me. Once again, my parents’ towering English walnut tree let loose a bumper crop of nice nuts, and a few weeks ago, I got a little compulsive about spending big chunks of time combing over their lawn, peeling hulls off shells, gathering up the harvest, and staining my poor, weathered hands a lovely shade of dark brown. But, ahhh…the reward!
After they’re collected, walnuts need to dry out before cracking. Ideally, one would have a large, heated space where nuts could be spread in single layers on airy racks for this curing time, but unfortunately, I do not have access to such a facility. Instead, I’ve managed to dry this year’s walnuts by rotating them through a circuit of a crate next to the woodstove then to an egg basket hanging in the hot rafters then to a mesh citrus bag stored on the back porch. (There’s some pretty helpful info about harvesting, drying, and storing nuts in this UC Davis publication.) Most of the walnuts I harvested are adequately dry at this point.
Last year, my mom, my cousin, and I cracked and picked out a large quantity of walnuts during some down time on our Thanksgiving weekend vacation. We could certainly do that again in a couple weeks, but I’ve gotten a head start by working on the pile a little at a time while carrying on conversations with Henry or the kids. Last weekend, my friend Dayna and I sat around gabbing, drinking tea, and picking apart nuts for a couple hours, and we made really good progress.
Charlotte loves fruit, vegetables, and carbs, but it can be hard to get her to eat healthy protein. Levi loves cheese, carbs, and meat, but he’s getting progressively pickier about eating fibrous fruits and vegetables. Both my kids, however, really like walnuts, and in this house, they know that they’re allowed to eat as many nutrient-and-protein-packed nuts as they want. I’ve even found myself snacking on them nearly every day, and I didn’t even think I like straight-up raw walnuts that much. They’re actually pretty tasty.
You know who else loves walnuts? The dog. Seriously. As I’m typing this, Kit is going back and forth from the crate full of drying walnuts by the fire to her favorite hiding place under the kitchen table where she proceeds to crack the shells with her teeth and gnaw out the bits of nut meat. She’s probably eaten at least ten in the last half hour. It can’t be good for her teeth, but I imagine that the nuts are as healthy for her as they are for us. Now if only she could clean up her mess when she’s finished…
I’m dying to know if anyone else out there has such a nut-loving dog. Have you ever seen this behavior in a dog before?