As I was exiting the Observatory Circle after at the Octagon Open House after my Mound Walk, there were a whole bunch of nuts on the golf cart pavement. I had somebody ask me, “Do you know what kind of nuts those are?” “Hickories, probably pignut hickories.” “Thanks. Aren’t those rather hard to step on?” “I just don’t step on them, but even if I do (I said as I stepped on one), it’s not much trouble. My foot folds around it.”
But there are some nuts . . .
I’ve written before about Klingons. No, they’re not really nuts. As a reminder, here’s what they look like:
This is the fruit of the tulip poplar, and if you have soft feet, that little point will stick to the bottom of your foot. They “cling-on”.
But that’s only a problem if you don’t hike much. Hike a bit more, and your feet are impervious. So, hike more!
One nut I did run across on my mound walk (at the Great Circle) was the beechnut (and here you thought all they were was a flavor of gum).
Those are pretty impressive spikelets. Once again, if one does regular hiking and one’s soles have built up a bit and aren’t namby-pamby soft, they’re really not a problem. Yes, you can feel them, but they don’t stick and really don’t even cause any pain.
But then there was a tree I encountered just as I returned to the Great Circle at the end of the mound walk. It looked like this.
Look familiar to anybody?
Does this help?
How about this?
Yes, those are chestnuts. I presume that the tree is a Chinese Chestnut, since the American Chestnut was pretty much wiped out by the chestnut blight.
Those burs are awful to step on. Even well-conditioned soles don’t really help. After I’d stepped on one (not looking properly where I was stepping), I realized I had a few (maybe 3) little spikes in my sole.
While bad, they weren’t awfully bad. I would feel one only occasionally (when its exact spot got specifically pressed by a high spot on the ground). But when I brushed my fingers over that spot on my foot, I could feel a slightly raised area. Brushing them with a knife removed them easily, though.
However, for that last picture, I used my fingers to open up the chestnut bur, and I am still feeling that spike on my thumb, which has no callus (or keratinization) at all. So these would be really awful on somebody without conditioned soles.
After that first exposure, I was really careful walking through these chestnuts. They were everywhere.
These were a staple of Native Americans. John Heckewelder wrote in 1818, referring to the Native Americans he was living with:
Another very good dish is prepared by boiling with their corn or maize, the washed kernels of the shell-bark or hickory nut. They pound the nuts in a block or mortar, pouring a little warm water on them, and gradually a little more as they become dry, until, at last, there is a sufficient quantity of water, so that by stirring up the pounded nuts the broken shells separate from the liquor, which from the pounded kernels assumes the appearance of milk. This being put into the kettle and mixed with the pottage gives it a rich and agreeable flavour. If the broken shells do not all freely separate by swimming on the top or sinking to the bottom, the liquor is strained through a clean cloth, before it is put into the kettle.
The nuts, although they have a hard shell, were pretty easy to crack with a hammer. I did it on a towel to be able to collect the pieces.
If you hit them too hard they will scatter, so just slowly keep increasing the blow until they crack open.
The recipe calls for 3 times as much water as nuts. Here are the nuts I started with:
After boiling them for about half an hour, this is what I was left with after I ran everything through a sieve.
I figure I must have done something wrong. The descriptions claim that it should look a fair bit like milk. I also got the impression that it was supposed to be thicker than this. But all I got was this rather thin brown liquid.
It did smell good (nicely nutty), and it tasted pretty good (I didn’t add sugar, but I bet that would have been a nice touch).
It was really more like a tea.
I ended up with a nutty nut-tea.
(PS. If anybody knows what I did wrong, feel free to let me know.)