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Memories of Canadice NY

Nuts, Nuts and More Nuts

By Mina Preston Oliver - The Canadice Chronicle

September 1997

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Chestnuts.

October and November, when I was young, was the time to harvest the nuts from the trees on our farm.

We had a tenant farm down the road from us, across from the Luckenbach Hill Road. In the field on the west side of the road in back of the house (since owned by Lan Cady and Tim Fergerson) stood a chestnut tree. The old fashioned sweet chestnut of that time was slowly dying out and this one had only one healthy branch left. My mother, sister and I picked up the few burrs containing chestnuts, from under the tree. The next year the old tree was gone. My mother loved chestnuts and I remember she felt bad.

In the road just north of the tenant house a row of butternut trees produced abundantly. We also picked up a basket or two of them. I did not like them as well. They had a rather bitter taste.

Walnut Trees

In the small field between our house and the cow barn was a large walnut tree. It gave shade and an abundant crop of nuts. That tree also provided a limb from which a long rope swing hung, ready for us girls to enjoy. With a push from behind, we could swing as high as the telephone poles. We had two other walnut trees down on the south side of the driveway. They did not produce as well.

The only thing bad about black walnuts was the outer covering and the hard, rough shell. We would pick up a bushel of the walnuts, dump them in the driveway for the car or other vehicles to run over them. This crushed the outer covering. Picking them up would stain our hands and the stain didn’t wash off easily. Then we still had to crack the hard shell in order to enjoy the meaty goodness that was inside. My mother had an old flatiron which we used to crack the nuts on. Even a hard blow from a hammer sometimes wouldn’t open the shell. In cracking them, we would sometimes hit our fingers or the nut would roll, uncracked, onto the floor.

The nut meats were delicious in cakes, etc. Also we made home-made black walnut ice cream. The nuts would be added after the ice cream started to set. That was one of the flavors of ice cream we used to serve at the ice cream socials the church used to put on.

Hickory Nuts.

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Hickory Tree Leaves.

The most abundant and best tasting nut was the hickory. Our farm boasted a whole ridge of hickory nut trees in the woods above the cow barn. That really was why my father named our farm, “Hickory Ridge Farm.”

It appeared on his letterhead and on signs put up in front of the sheep he showed at the fairs. We also had hickory nut trees scattered in the fields. We purchased our first hand lawn mower with money we earned from a bushel of hickory nuts we girls picked one October. We sold them to Mr. Shadick, who owned the Buster Brown shoe store on Main Street in Canadaigua.

There had to be a frost before the first nuts dropped to the ground. The trees in the woods had the largest hickory nuts I ever saw. We seldom found many of them, for the squirrels would take them before we arrived. Those nuts were also hard to crack. We found by hitting one in a certain place it would crack open and reveal an entire nut half.

Many a Sunday night my father would crack a cereal bowl full of nuts for each of us. We would sit near the round furnace in winter, enjoying the treat.

Cakes and Squatters.

Mama made nut bread out of nuts and a delicious cake. The white cake had just two or three layers. She used the nuts for the filling. The recipe was 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup nut meats ground or chopped fine, and 1 rounded teaspoon of flour. You added enough hot water to moisten and cooked until thick. Stir and watch it, as it burns easily. She then topped the cake with a brown sugar frosting and whole nutmeats placed here and there.

I remember one Sunday after we returned from church. We noticed a car parked over under one of our favorite hickory nut trees. Papa was a good man and would allow anyone to pick up nuts or apples if they first asked permission.

We girls rode over with him to confront the couple who were filling their buckets with nuts. They were very angry even when he told them he wished they had asked before they started picking up the nuts.

The woman turned toward him and threw the whole pan of nuts in his face. They were from the city and assumed that anything in the country was free.

I sure do miss going out after the nuts and eating the delicious baked goods made with them.

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