Fresh

Small girl swinging on a rope from a tree.Most of the nuts people eat in Australia are not fresh. I’m not basing this opinion on any hard evidence such as data on how long they’re stored before selling, just on the fortunate experience of having grown up between two giant walnut trees, one either side of our house. That’s why I know a rancid nut when I eat one.

The picture shows me when I was little, on a home made rope swing dangling from one of those trees.

I’m realising now that perhaps they weren’t quite as giant as I thought.

I vividly remember not only swinging, but also bouncing on grey-barked branches that grew out almost horizontally from the thick trunks, and climbing, although never as high as my older brothers dared to go.

I remember the snow drops, deep purple violets and delicate mauve periwinkle that flourished under the trees. I remember being fascinated by the tortoises and lizards my brothers kept under one of them for a while.

Me & my Dad under the walnut tree.  He was the person who created our wonderful garden form nothing, and also took the old photos on this post.

Me & my Dad under the walnut tree. Dad created our wonderful garden from nothing, and also took most of the photos on this post. The grey wall over to the right is the fence around the tortoises and lizards.

I don’t remember this, but I know my mum used to park me under the walnut in my pram when I was a baby, for my afternoon sleep.

I remember the ‘shop’ I set up under the same shady boughs to ‘sell’ bric-a-brac to the only customer available: my mum (we lived five miles out of town, so not much passing trade). It was just one of many, many games that took place under and in the walnut trees.

Small girl behind a bric-abrac stall with toys and odds and ends.

I remember how the husk surrounding the growing walnut looked like a passionfruit through all the stages of growth from unripe, to ready to eat.

My brother Mark in another younger walnut tree.

My brother Mark in a young walnut tree.

I still remember the smell of the soft oval leaves, and how strands of sticky black husk clung to the shell like spider web.

I remember that we hunted through the dark foliage of the violets and periwinkle to gather ripe wrinkled nuts that had fallen on the ground.

I remember how clever my brothers were at cracking the nuts so that they broke perfectly in half, looking like small boats. And I remember the taste. The skin could be a little astringent, yes, but the nuts didn’t have the acrid taste of store bought nuts, were never floury, and certainly not rancid.

We had lots of walnuts.

Every winter, my mum made walnut pudding: a plain batter with golden syrup and walnuts, baked in the slow combustion stove. But I think we mostly ate them raw.

Recipe for walnut pudding typed in kitchen-stained notebook

I remember looking out my bedroom window at the walnut tree the morning we left the farm forever, drinking in the early summer green of the leaves, knowing I’d never see it again, trying to imprint it on my memory.

I didn’t need to try so hard, those walnut trees are totally embedded in my psyche. But I’ve never again eaten walnuts as fresh.

Pesto ingredients - basil, parmesan, walnuts, garlic.

The ingredients for a pesto sauce: basil from my garden, with freshly shelled walnuts bought at a farmer’s market, parmesan and garlic.

Check out other fresh challenge responses here.

walnuts in the shell, in a bowl with a nutcracker.

If you want to eat nuts that are fresh, buy them in the shell, and try & buy in season – nuts are harvested in Autumn. These were actually last season’s but still better than pre-shelled.

 

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10 thoughts on “Fresh

  1. What a lovely article. I love walnuts and all other nuts I can get from the stores. However I never ever had the luck to eat fresh nuts! I actually didn’t know about those trees but now I feel like researching about them and having them in my future garden:)

  2. As Crazy said, what a lovely article. I really don’t know where I can get fresh nuts these days. Never were a fan of the ones at Woolies or Coles – too floury and they lack a “crunch” of fresh tasting food. I’ve bought nuts in shells from the Queen Victoria Market near my place on a few occasions…but I can never tell if they are truly fresh and they look like they’ve sat there for a long time :/

    • Thanks Mabel. It is hard to tell how fresh nuts in the shell are unless you taste them, because they can sit in storage for so long. I think fresh nuts have a sweetness to them that they lose as they get old. Farmer’s markets are a good source but not foolproof because people sometimes have old stock to get rid of, even when the new ones are in season.

      • That is so true. Luckily most stalls let you try a few nuts before you buy. I love pistachios, the savoury variety and have trouble telling if they are indeed fresh. It’s a shame these nuts, and most others, tend to be quite expensive. The ones at Woolies are usually cheap but covered in salt.

      • I do think you have to go on taste & texture, but of course salt on nuts often covers up a stale taste. I think Middle Eastern stores are also more likely than supermarkets to have fresher nuts because they have such a high turnover, and perhaps more discerning customers – but that’s a wild generalisation 😉

      • Thanks for the tip. I might check out nuts when I pass by a Middle Eastern store the next time. Personally I like nuts with a rough texture. Last year I bought some delicious caramelised nuts from the Sunday market down at St Kilda beach near Melbourne. They are probably not too good health-wise though…

  3. Oh Maamej, what a wonderful set of memories. I bet your sensory recall of the taste and scent of those walnuts is amazing. Thanks for sharing such a terrific personal story.

    • Thanks Tina, it is all very vivid. Also wonderful when I went through the old family photos to see how many pics involved the larger walnut tree which was near my room and close to our front lawn. There were lots!

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