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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43 thoughts on “We Have Walnuts – and Pears!

  1. Congradulations on your walnuts. We rent a place that has huge mature English Walnut and mature Black Walnut trees on our property and in the creek that runs behind us, the kicker my husband hates walnut so he is happy to let the large tree squirrel population pillage our trees! I am ok with it, it keeps the squirrels busy and out of the garden except when they try to store their nuts in our half wine barrels! We figure if there is ever a disaster and we had to there would be some healthy squirrels for eatin’!

    • Haha – roasted squirrel – “tastes like walnuts” 😀
      Thanks for the laugh, Bonnie. My nieces can’t eat walnuts, they make sores in their mouths. I, however, adore them! Have a great week.

    • I grew up in a little town surrounded by walnuts, almonds, oranges and olives, but I am still learning how to take care of these trees myself! The walnut husks are pretty thick and if you handle them very much, your hands turn black! I’m glad I could show you your first walnut on a tree. Thanks for commenting, Liz.

  2. Your walnuts & pears look awesome, and so does that cake! Wow, I never would have thought of planting nuts it just never occurred to me but it’s an awesome idea. I hope this was your first of many more walnut harvests to come!

    • My husband and I love eating nuts, so planting nut trees was important to our idea of self sufficiency. I am so glad we got them in the ground when we did because the price of walnuts is starting to skyrocket – almonds too! I know that living in the mountains, we will lose some of our crop to squirrels and birds, but hopefully the harvest will be large enough to provide for us all! Thanks for stopping by, Kara. Enjoy your stay in Korea!

      • To protect your nut trees until they are big enough to provide enough for you, the squirrels and birds drape them with bird net, we have to to that to our plum tree because they are producing fruit before the walnuts are grown so the squirrels go after the easy instead of digging up last years nuts, once the stone fruit is done they return to digging up last years nuts until the current years is ready. Before we used the bird netting they would strip the fruit trees fast.

        • Yes, I have heard this works. We will have to do something, because we have a LOT of squirrels! And bluejays! Though I don’t think the bluejays will be much of a problem for the walnut tree, they may end up ravaging our almond tree before we can get any of the nuts. And our fruit trees. Ah well, nothing can be perfect! Nice to hear from you again, Bonnie!

  3. Hi Vickie,
    I’m happy for you about your harvest.
    Also we have already harvested pears, and Angelika collects road every day in public places walnuts, as we have no own trees.
    Our neighbor has a walnut tree, and there we may also gather.
    In addition, this year we have many hazelnuts collected, you can indeed use good for anything.

    The cake looks delicious.

    regards

    Uwe

    • Hello Uwe! I also love hazelnuts! I found a recipe to make Nutella, which I know is popular in Germany, using hazelnuts, so we may be planting a hazelnut tree soon. I think we will be planting our pear tree this winter, but we haven’t decided which kind to plant yet. What kind of pear tree do you have?

    • Thanks, Barb! I feel you have become such a blogging friend over this past year, that when our home is built on the future homestead, you are more than welcome to visit! And if you do, I will make you a walnut cake 😀

  4. Woohoo! Congrats on your walnuts! My walnut tree is all of about 12 inches high so I think I have a ways to wait yet, lol!
    Mmmmm non store bought pears! Mmmmm! There is a road side stall just outside of Sale in Victoria that will have bags of pears from their trees for sale. I love buying his pears as they are to DIE for!!

    • Yes – we got a head start by planting 3 year old trees, so the trees are now actually 5 and 6 years old. I love pears also and can’t wait until we make our solar dehydrator (too many irons in the pot right now) so that I can start dehydrating my fruits and vegetables. Dried pears are just like candy to me! Good luck with your tree. I guess, according to ours, you only have another four or five years to wait! 😀

    • Hello, Pat! You are the second person to comment that they have never seen a walnut tree before! This tree will get big – about 40-60 feet tall. It will also make a nice shady path one day from the country lane in front of our property back into our homestead. I can’t wait until it’s big enough to support a swing – but of course that will take a few more years! The pear walnut cake is delicious. I just ate a piece a few minutes ago and it is moist and yummy! Thanks for stopping by for a visit, Pat! And thanks for showing those beautiful fall colors in Colorado on your blog!

  5. I have been noticing lately how expensive walnuts and other nuts are at the store! They are something I want to eat more because they are good for you, but it’s hard to fit them in the budget. Growing them yourself is so smart! I need to look into this when I have a backyard. Thank you for sharing with Hump Day Happenings!

    • Oh my goodness, I think the price of nuts has gone up at least 25% this past year. That’s nuts! 😉
      I think a lot of the problem is that we are now shipping a large amount of our nuts to other countries, especially China, so the ugly ole supply and demand equation comes into play. Walnut trees are wonderful backyard trees! They grow big enough for a tree house and certainly swings, provide lots of shade, and healthy food! But get them in the ground ASAP because they take a while to bear.

  6. Vickie,

    So excited for you. We planted our first apple trees 3 years ago and this year we go 6 apples. It was a bad year for apples in our neighborhood, so we were pretty pleased. Looks like things are really coming along at the homestead. Congratulations. Hmmm, do you suppose we can grow walnut trees in southern Maine? I’ll have to do some research. It would be great to put them in our granola!

    • Six apples! Wahoo! We didn’t get any apples from our young trees this year, but are hopeful for next year. They were also planted 3 years ago, so we should get something next year. I am not sure if a walnut tree would grow in your area. I know that black walnuts and butternuts are native to the US, and I believe both would grow in Maine, but you would have to check on that. The walnuts we planted are English (Persian) walnuts and their shells aren’t as hard to crack as the Black Walnuts. If you do decide to get one – do it soon! Nut trees usually take a year or two longer than fruit trees do to produce a crop. Thanks for stopping by, Penny.

  7. How exciting to have your first walnuts!!! We had 5 tangerines for the first time on our tree this year and I was very giddy! It is a start like you say! 🙂 I love the resourcefulness of finding a cake to fit your newly harvested goods! Thanks for sharing on the Art of Home-Making Mondays!

    • Good evening, Jes! I have a baby tangerine also – actually, it’s a Tango Mandarin, but who’s checking! Anyway, this is the first year it is bearing fruit and it has gone crazy! First, the tree was covered in beautiful, awesome smelling white blossoms, then we got about 2 dozen fruits to start. After a month or so, just as the mandarins were getting to be large pea sized, the tree bloomed again! A few of the fruits have dropped off, but I have about 20 mandarins hanging on, all of them about 2-3″ in diameter! This is so cool! My baby Meyer Lemon is also going to bear about 8 lemons this year! I sure hope I can keep these trees (they are dwarfs in large pots) alive during our first winter on the homestead, because we won’t have the greenhouse built yet. You had a great home-making party this week with so many fun and informative posts. Thanks for hosting!

    • Thanks for the kind compliment, Jennifer! Your blog is pretty cool, also! I checked out your post about Dollywood – pretty cool. I would love to see that glass blower in action. My favorite glass blower (yes, I have a favorite) is in Fort Bragg, California, which is a favorite vacation spot for my family. Nice to meet you Jennifer!

  8. oh so exciting!! I hadn’t seen a walnut on the tree before either, so how interesting!! I have seen pecans, they are all over in Louisiana and around here in NC too. I love walnuts though have a really hard time getting them out of the shell. I so enjoy reading all that you share about your future homestead. You help the rest of us dream and anticipate getting to our own 🙂

    • Good morning! I would bet you have a problem shelling black walnuts – not english walnuts – which is what I planted. I love the taste of black walnuts, but they are so stinkin’ hard to get out of the shell! The english walnuts (which actually are persian walnuts) are much easier. You just whack them with a hammer and the shell breaks in half, and the nut meats come right out! Nonetheless, thanks for your encouragement! Sometimes we feel that we are spinning our wheels 100 miles an hour and not getting anywhere. When my husband finally retires from his job and we move up there, that’s when things will really be hopping! I hope.

    • Yes, they are beautiful trees, both in the summer and winter! The shade they provide in the summer with their big leaves is wonderful, but in the winter when they are leafless, they cast such a beautiful silhouette! All of the walnut orchards are in the midst of harvesting right now, so all of the nut houses are busy! 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Alicia!

    • Thank you, Lauren! I have been in and out lately – just so busy! I will try to attend your party tomorrow – thanks for the invite!

  9. Hi Vickie,

    So nice to meet you!

    Loved reading about all of your walnut and pear events, the best being that gorgeous, mouthwatering cake you baked!! Thanks for sharing the recipe; will definitely give this one a go. Your passion for nature, growing your own food, and supporting your community is contagious!

    Happy October!

    Poppy
    P.S. Thanks for visiting Poppy View, and hope to see you again soon!

    • Good evening, Poppy! Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I have been busy as a bee this past couple of weeks. The cake really was quite delicious, and since hubby and I didn’t want it to go to waste, we ate the whole thing between just the two of us! My diet is starting tomorrow. 😉

  10. Congrats on the wonderful walnut harvest, that is so awesome. The cake looks amazing and I was just thinking about what to do with the last few pears I have. You solved that for me! Thanks for linking up at Whatever Wednesday

  11. Oh your cake looks and sounds delicious! I think you will be so glad you have your own walnuts. They have gotten so expensive at the grocers. I love your collection of pie birds. I just found my first one at a damaged goods store for $5. I spied it in the glass case and immediately knew what it was. I was elated! Thanks for sharing with SYC.
    hugs,
    Jann

    • Those pie birds were just three of eight that I have! My mother started her collection of pie birds many years ago and I fell in love with them, so I had to start my own collection! As for the walnuts; can you believe how expensive they have become? It’s sad that such a good, healthy, wholesome food is suddenly so expensive! But then, what isn’t, lately?

  12. G’day from Oz! Thanks for sharing your recipe and fascinating post at the Say G’day Saturday Linky Party. I’ve just shared this on Pinterest/Facebook/Twitter. I’m also featuring you at my Friday Favorites post!

    Hope you can link up with us again this Saturday.

    Best wishes,
    Natasha in Oz

  13. In Australia those round pears are called Nashi Pears. They are Asian and remind me of a mixture between watermelon and a pear. I like to peel mine though. Also they are so very refreshing.
    As always thanks for your post
    Alexa blogging from Sydney, Australia
    Alexa-asimplelife

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