We Have Walnuts – and Pears!

Three years ago we planted our first walnut tree up on the future homestead.  Then, two years ago we planted another.  Walnuts are notorious for taking a long time to produce a crop, but here we are with our first walnuts!First crop of Walnuts

Yeah.  I know.  We only got seven walnuts – but it’s a start!

Actually, we only have five walnuts because two of them weren’t ready to harvest yet.  The walnut husk has to split open to release the nut, and these two weren’t ready to be released yet…

First Walnut Harvest

These two walnuts weren’t ready to be harvested. You can see, however, a crack starting to develop on the husk!

The walnuts will be an important source of protein on our homestead, along with animal protein from our eggs, chicken and fish. Walnuts are just chock full of nutrients, and walnut oil is prized among many gourmet chefs. We also planted an almond tree last year (we have purchased all of our fruit and nut trees from Peaceful Valley Nursery), but have three more almond trees in pots that Mother Nature gave us this past spring.  They came as volunteer almond trees that grew from seed our mature almond tree dropped last fall!

Walnut and Pear Spice Cake

A giant pear at the Kelseyville Pear Fair!

This past weekend we attended the Pear Festival in Kelseyville, California (which is near Clear Lake), with some dear friends of ours.  This was such a quaint small town affair and we had a lot of fun. First, we watched a parade with some beautiful horses, a mariachi band, and some awesome vintage cars. Apparently the local high school was hosting their homecoming game that afternoon, so the individual class floats – all themed after Dr. Seuss books – were a highlight of the parade.  After the parade we walked down the main street of town and visited booth after booth of handmade and specialty items for sale.  We ate some delicious tamales for lunch and noshed on pear ice cream for dessert.  Before we left, we bought two large bags of pears.

Walnut tree's first crop

The pears made a nice little display with some of my pie birds. So colorful!

The yellow round pears are Asian Pears, but unfortunately I forgot which variety they were.  They are sweet and firm with a wonderful crispness.  The red pears are called Starkrimson. Ray and I have never tried this variety before, so we decided to get a bag and have a taste. I did some research when I got home about the Starkrimson pear, and apparently they turn from a deep almost burgundy red to a brighter fire engine red when ripe.  The bag we brought home only had one that was ripe, which is great because we can eat the pears every other day or so as they ripen. My verdict of Starkrimson?  These pears are heavenly.  Very sweet, juicy and with a finer texture than a Bartlett.  I think they will make a great toasted walnut, blue cheese and pear salad!  In fact, the newly harvested walnuts just might be just enough for a nice salad. 😀

Three walnuts from our first harvest.

Three of the seven walnuts from our first harvest.

To celebrate our first walnut harvest and to use some of the Asian Pears, I decided to bake a Cake.  I got a recipe from Food Network called Pear Walnut Spice Cake.  I chose this one because it called for 2 cups of diced pears, 1 cup of chopped walnuts, and 1 cup of raisins – along with cinnamon, cloves and allspice.  Mmmmmm……  it sounded so good!  The glaze was made with powdered sugar and maple syrup.  The result?

Kelseyville Pear Festival

Since pears and walnuts are fall harvested crops, I thought it would be appropriate to display the cake next to my fall vignette on the dining room table.

……….A really good cake!

The cake itself was fairly heavy – like a fruitcake with a melt in your mouth “crust”, but the pears were moist, and the walnuts had a yummy roasted flavor.  The raisins added just enough twang and it all paired very well with the spices.  This one was a winner and I will bake it again and again! Here is a link to the recipe:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/pear-walnut-spice-cake.html

We haven’t planted a pear tree on our future homestead yet, but plan to get one of those multi-graft trees that have several varieties on one tree.  These are great because you don’t have to worry about pollination issues, although usually the fruit will ripen at different times which extends the harvest season.  If I had my choice, I would get a Bartlett Pear, a D’Anjou and our new favorite, Starkrimson!

I was also looking at a few recipes for pear pie.  I would like to try the Starkrimson in a pie to see how it holds up with baking.  Do you have a good pear pie recipe?  If you do, please feel free to post a link in the comments below!

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