The children have been collecting these wonderful Hickory Nuts in basket loads. They crack the hulls to reveal the delicious nuts by cracking them with a hammer on our brick hearth by the old wood stove that crackles with its dance of flames. There is just something about a wood stove on a cool fall day. It is not only warm, but the scent of wood burning and the sound of crackling is a comfort to my soul. We will soak and roast these wonderful Hickory nuts and make some cakes and tarts with them. What a treat! The Native Americans were said to have discovered these nuts and ground them up and mixed the nut meat with boiling water to make “hickory milk” which was a flour like mixture that was made into cakes. Most people today, prize the Hickory nut for it’s sweetness. My Grandfather was part Native American, and he taught his own children to go on their annual Hickory nut treasure hunt in the woods of Wisconsin. My parents later took my brother and I on the same hunt. Now my family is enjoying the bounty of the Shagbark Tree. And what a blessing to have so many growing in our pasture!
The newest two wild fruits we have experienced in Tennessee is the Persimmon and the Muskenine. The first time I tried a persimmon, I made a big mistake. I ate the fruit when it was green! It has a certain reaction in your mouth that makes you feel like you bit into a chunk of bitter tasting wax. It was dreadful! My face began to pucker and all I could think about was “how long will I feel like my mouth is stuck?”. Next, I thought I would secretly get the rest of the family to experience this odd sensation. One by one each of the children began to pucker and reach for water until I realized another mistake. Never trick the kids when it comes to trying new food. They will never again trust your advice on what is good to eat. They think twice before they think about trying it. BUT, when I tried a very ripe, brightly colored orange persimmon, it was fantastic. It is even delightfully sweet with no bitter, waxy aftertaste! None of the children would believe me. Oh well, more for me!!!!
They have several pretty large seeds in them, so you have to squish the lovely fruit in your mouth and spit out the seeds. Not too hard! We probably have 4 large persimmon trees out on the edge of the pasture, loaded with fruit that is ripe unto the harvest and free for the taking! You just never know what treasures are hiding in your backyard!
A neighbor gave me a bowl full of Muscadines which look like very large grapes. You eat them much like you would a grape and they are very sweet. I whipped up a batch of jelly from the berries and it was just so good. They simmered all day over the stove and the smell of them was enough to make you drool. That evening, the girls and I made a big batch of biscuits with some vegetable soup. On the fresh biscuits went the butter and the muscadine jelly! Wow! That was so good. I had a pretty good turn out of four, 1/2 pints of jelly! Now I am thinking about making some persimmon jelly!