SONG News May 2011 no.91
In this Issue...

While on the tour I mentioned a tree in Bayfield that had a plaque saying it had been planted from a seed donated by King George in 1939. It certainly has some butternut characteristics, but I suspect it is a hybrid. Above are some photos of the plaque, tree and nut that you may find interesting.... .Steve Bowers

Torrie Warner

Hi this is to introduce Mr. Torrie Warner who will be taking on the role of Research Director for walnuts. Torrie lives and farms 60 acres in Beamsville, Ontario, and already has good luck selling his walnuts and fruit at local markets. Ed...

In the 1930's my Grandfather planted 2 seedling walnut trees, one of which was killed in a severe winter about 10 years later. The other produced large firm shelled bitter walnuts, this tree was severely damaged in the winter of 1980/81 along with many other stone fruit trees on the farm, and lost its crop in 1993, and finally broke during a thunderstorm in 2006. My father planted a seedling walnut in 1969 to mark the occasion of my birth, this tree produces 10-15 bushels of walnuts annually, again losing its crop in 1993, with some minor frost damage in other years.

In 1994,1 purchased the 30 acre fruit farm from my father, started attending retail farmers markets and found walnuts , along with other nuts, to be attractive to many customers. I purchased about 60 grafted walnut trees about 5 years ago and am starting to get a few walnuts. The terminal buds have frozen for 4 years reducing growth, however they are starting to rise above the frost pocket and I am optimistic for cropping similar to our specimen tree on the front lawn in the years to come, walnuts are very susceptible to frost damage, similar to apricots.

Customers like walnuts in the skin for pickling in late June, again just as the shell starts to harden for tinctures (some call them liqueurs), and at what I call the normal time, when the skins break open and the nuts fall to the ground. Nuts can be hard or soft shelled, referring to the ease of cracking, also some are bitter and need roasting or curing. I am still learning about nuts, and hope to promote the education, production and marketing of walnuts in southern Ontario, through SONG. If you have any suggestions, experiences you wish to share, or any questions please give me a call, or type me an email.

Torrie can be reached at 905 562 5637 or by email at


A small but committed group attended the ECSONG Winter Meeting and AGM on Saturday 29 January 2011. Retiring President Chris Skaarup opened the meeting with the presentation of three engraved walnut ECSONG Lifetime Achievement Awards: Len & Genice Collett, Neil Thomas, and John Sankey.

Richard Viger talked on the progress of Le club des producteurs de noix comestibles du Quebec: nut growing and cultivar development are alive and growing in the province. Murray Inch described progress at the Oak Valley Pioneer Park: its maturing nut groves are well supported by local communities and local governments. John Sankey presented the exciting plans for the Hardy Heartnut project, with planting to begin this spring.

A break for meet & greet accompanied by coffee and nut goodies was followed by the AGM proper. It was proposed that ECSONG no longer needs a treasurer, since SONG is now managing the money, but that we do need a webmaster. The following volunteered and were acclaimed:
President: John Sankey
Vice President: Richard Viger
Secretary: Murray Spearman
Webmaster: Jeff Blackadar
Councillors: John Adams, Joanne Butler, Dan Mayo
Past President: Chris Skaarup
Coordinators of our nut groves and projects are:
Paige Cousineau: Lavant Shagbarks
Peter Goddard: F.R.Park
Jim Ronson: Perth Wildlife Reserve
John Sankey: Dolman Ridge, Sawmill Creek Shagbarks
Gordon Wilkinson: Hardy Heartnuts

Butternut/White Walnut
Excerpt from Ernie's new book Nut Tree Ontario a Practical Guide

The butternut, also known as white walnut, (Juglans cinerea) is a native tree to Eastern North America. The native range extends farther northward than the black walnut into New Brunswick on the east to Wisconsin and Minnesota on the west. It has proven to be adaptable to many climatic zone 3 areas where the soils are deep and loamy with a pH between 6-7.5. It is generally found singly in forests and rarely in pure stands. It can grow up to 30 metres tall.

It was introduced to many regions of Canada where the climate zones and soil conditions are appropriate including the east coast of Canada and as far west as Southern Manitoba, Edmonton and parts of British Columbia. It was introduced to Manitoba by B.D. Wallace who planted 100 pounds of seed nuts in 1914. Many seedlings were killed by the 1915-16 winter in Portage La Prairie. About 50 seedlings survived and in 1918, thirty of them were sent to Morden Experimental Station. In a visit to the station, several old trees were found along with black walnut trees that originated on the grounds of the University of Fargo North Dakota.

The butternut is valued in many places as an ornamental species and by wood carvers who appreciate the wood grain that is similar to black walnut but is easier to work.

The butternut is generally not a long lived tree. Most seem to live 50-75 years with a few that remain disease free for 100 years or more. It tends to be a spreading tree with branches that dip and then rise at the ends. It has heavy crops every second or third year with light crops in between. It is not valued as a commercial species because of several drawbacks besides its bearing characteristics. It has a very hard shell and even cultivars that crack out in halves do not yield a high percentage of nut meat in relation to shell.

The nuts are oval shaped with heavy, spiny fissures along the length of the nut. It cracks best from end to end with a heavy hammer on an anvil or with a vice. With wild trees, the nut meat needs a nut pick to remove the meat that usually comes out in pieces. Enthusiasts in nut growing selected the best cracking trees for propagation by grafting. Most of these will release the meat easily in two pieces. Nuts are produced in twos to fours at the terminals of the new growth. The nuts ripen in September in a thin sticky green husk. The husks adhere tightly at harvest but break down as they turn black in piles on the ground. They will rub off easily at this stage. If a large quantity is being cleaned, they can be placed in a 20 litre tub with some water and beaten with a dry wall stirrer on a half inch drill. After a period of drying, they are ready to crack and eat.

Butternuts have an oily aromatic flavour that has a special following. The Indians, and later the pioneers collected the nuts and used them as winter food. Some modern farm families still collect the nuts for fresh eating and baking.

Sadly the butternut trees are dying off and becoming scarce because of a new disease called butternut canker disease.

Many cultivars have been selected and named for their nut cracking qualities. Most are not in propagation due to low demand. For the nut enthusiast who wishes to make a cultivar collection, grafting wood is available from some Northern Nut Grower members and from the Holden Arboretum in Mentor, Ohio. A few cultivars are available from nut tree nurseries, otherwise seedling trees are available.

Butternut seedlings do not make good rootstocks for butternut grafting. The traditional rootstock for butternut has been the black walnut. It is considered a good rootstock because as a mature tree, it produces a strong deep root system. However, it is not good as a young tree. The black walnut tree does not transplant well. In the first year growth is poor. If the graft survives the first year it usually performs well after that. The search is on for a better root stock that performs well in the first year and beyond.

Butternut hybrid crosses with all of the introduced walnut species are very common in nature. There is a concern that the pure butternut species will disappear. However, some conclude that this is not all together bad. The hybrids are often much healthier, more disease resistant and vigorous than the pure butternut. In fact, the hybrids with Oriental species, particularly heartnut, produce seedlings that are so vigorous that they would make strong growing rootstocks for most walnut species grafting. Heartnut hybrids are generally productive too and in some cases, the seedlings they produce maintain the hybrid vigour. This seems to be true with an old selection made by Jack Gellatly in British Columbia called 'Fioka'. In early trials in Niagara with Fioka seedlings, approximately 90 % of the trees made enough growth in the planting year to be used as rootstocks compared to about 50% for most heartnut parent seedlings. The expectation is that the faster growing rootstocks will push the grafted top to grow more, and when they become productive, the roots can support larger crops.

Butternut crosses with Persian walnut often Butternut crosses with Persian walnut often make poor producing trees with thick hard shells that extract poorly. In early trials, it was hoped that the native butternut would instil a trait for greater hardiness with the Persian walnut qualities, but to date no improved crosses have been found. A second or third cross may be needed to obtain the desired characteristics.

Hazelnut & Garbanzo Spread

Having a repertoire of easy spreads pays off when you need a quick appetizer or canape base. Spreads this wholesome also make great sandwich fillings.

With one easy, additional step you can offer your guests an extraordinary starter. Simply slice a couple of eggplants, brush them with oil, and roast them on a baking sheet at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Then, place a spoonful of this delicious spread in the center of each slice, pinch the bottom together, and secure it with a toothpick. Voila! Now you have little cornucopias.

Yield: about 2 cups
l/2 ripe avocado, diced
2 green onions (white part only), minced
1 (1-pound) can garbanzo beans, drained, liquid reserved
l/2 cup hazelnut meal *
5 tablespoons garbanzo liquid
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Place the diced avocado and green onions into a medium bowl and set them aside. Combine the remaining ingredients in the food processor and process until thick and smooth. Using a spatula, transfer the spread to the bowl with the avocado, and gently mix until the avocado and green onions are evenly distributed. Spoon into an attractive serving dish and enjoy.
* If hazelnut meal is unavailable, pulverize whole hazelnuts in the food processor for about 1 to 2 minutes, or until they reach the consistency of a meal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I have a black walnut in my yard. What can I do with the nuts?

A: Black walnut meats are not only high in food value, but delicious. They are well worth the trouble to get at the meats. They are excellent in cookies, fudge and other places where nut meats are used. They can be mixed with other nut meats or used alone.

Gather the nuts when they fall from the tree. You can remove the green hulls by tramping on them. Small hullers can be built or purchased to do this job if you plan to do a lot each year. Use heavy rubber gloves to pick up the hulled nuts and wash or rinse the nuts vigorously in a pail to remove any remaining pulp. For large amounts, a cement mixer is useful for cleaning the nuts.

Spread the nuts out in an airy place to dry or if space is a problem, place them several layers deep in trays, bins or boxes and flip them in the container twice a day for a week or more. They will dry thoroughly in 1-2 months, but this can occur faster indoors. Once dry they will keep fresh tasting at least until the warm weather of summer. For longer storage the nuts can be kept frozen.

Though black walnut crackers can be purchased, the cheapest way to crack the nuts is with a hammer and vice or anvil. Rap the nut with the hammer several times to crack it. A wire cutter can be used to break out bound pieces along with a nut pick.

Provided by SONG. Feel free to copy with a credit.