Gardeners learning native nut trees

Submitted story

President Nancy Baldwin called the Oct. 25 Hillsboro Garden club meeting to order with members standing for the Pledge of Allegiance and singing of “God Bless America” led by Ed Davis. Roll Call was answered by 16 members. Four members were absent.

Secretary Carol Gorby recognized three members with perfect attendance this year: Nancy Baldwin, Dena Benner and Nancy Sonner.

Beryl Gruelle explained her arrangement of the month. An assortment of the season’s last blooms from her gardens included dahlias, mums, zinnias, greenery and ferns. The container was a large dried basket gourd with the top removed. She used a woodburning tool to burn in designs and images around the sides. A beautiful container and a lovely fall arrangement.

Sonner reported on the Region 16 meeting on Oct. 13. Morning speaker Carolyn Turner on “Saving the Monarch Butterfly” was very interesting. A short video showed the life cycle of the Monarch and had the club mesmerized. The MBS and ODNR are promoting establishing Monarch waystations along their migration route so more nourishment is available on the butterflies’ way to Mexico. Following lunch, Caesar Creek Naturalist Kim Baker presented a slide show about the prairie flowers and their pollinators. The publicity book by Ruth Anna Duff received a Superior Award, the program book by Gorby received an Excellent Award. The Spring Region 16 meeting will be May 11 hosted by Clinton County clubs. Dates for the Ohio State Fair are July 25 to Aug. 6.

Holiday decorating at the Highland House Museum with the theme “Snowmen” will be done by open house on Nov. 5-6. There is no info yet on Deer Creek decorating. The Holiday Parade date is 7 p.m. on Dec. 10, rain date Dec. 17. The theme is “Dr. Seuss Christmas.”

Building improvements include a new door in the kitchen.

The flower show chair announced statistics from the fair flower shows, recognized the members who worked hard to put on the event, and asked for more help next year.

The program for the night was “Knowing Our Native Nut Trees” by Gorby. How familiar are we with our native nut trees? Our ancestors made very good use of all the nuts they found. Nuts were food for the table, had medicinal properties, and furnished strong wood for tools and logs for homes.

The mighty American chestnut tree, a member of the birch family, vanished from our forests about 100 years ago due to a devastating blight first found on trees in the Bronx Zoo. Within a couple decades they were gone. Scientists are trying to cross-breed with Asian chestnuts, which are naturally immune to the blight, to bring them back. The family of oaks (Quercus) produce bountiful amounts of acorns from 60-plus oak species in North America. Largely ignored, except by the squirrels, these nuts have been found in shelters dating back to the Paleolithic Age. White Oak is sweetest, but the nuts from others can be boiled to leach out the tannins, roasted, and be amazingly tasty. Even the water from boiling can be used to relieve insect bites, bee stings, sunburns and rashes.

The walnut family (Juglans) includes the black walnut which we are blessed to have in abundance in this area. Notorious for it’s staining husks, the nuts are worth the work to get them. One needs to remove the husks quickly to keep the nuts from picking up the iodine-like flavor. Another tree of this family is the butternut, which resembles the black walnut but is smaller. Not having such a nasty husk, it does contain a yellow or orange dye and much lighter wood. The nuts are milder and taste a lot like a hickory nut.

Another branch of the walnut family is claimed by the hickories (Carya). Shagbark hickories have shaggy barks, grow to 100 feet and can live for hundreds of years. A slow grower with a long tap root, it is very hardy. Valued for its tough wood for handles of tools, the green wood is used to flavor meats when BBQ or smoking. The nuts have a flavor like a cross between pecans and walnuts, but easier to shell. Our native pecan is the largest of the hickorys, growing 140 feet tall. Not valued as a lumber tree, it is widely cultivated for its nuts. About half of the nation’s crop is produced from native trees. You will need a good shell cracker to open a native pecan.

One final edible native nut is the hazelnut or filbert (Corylus). More of a shrub or small tree, it is a member of the birch family. The nut has no husk like walnuts, but is surrounded by a leafy husk. If you are lucky enough to own a hazelnut you need to watch it closely because the woodland critters will have the nuts gone before you know it. I was surprised to learn that the Harry Lauder walking stick, whose branches are often used in floral arrangements, is a member of the Filbert family.

The meeting was adjourned and we proceeded to enjoy refreshments of spicy pumpkin cake, nuts, candy corn, and drinks served by Arlene Huiet and Andrea Schneider.

Submitted by Carol Gorby, Hillsboro Garden Club secretary.

Submitted story