Urban Foraging for a Nut Harvest


| 1/22/2014 9:50:00 AM


Erin SheehanFor the past five autumns we’ve watched squirrels devour the hundreds of butternuts that fall from the huge butternut trees in our neighborhood. Butternuts have a high oil content, providing a lot of calories to the squirrels in the form of fat and protein.

 

Unshelled

The nuts have a large green husk that contains a dye powerful enough that it was used in the mid-19th century to color cloth. Squirrels in our neighborhood sport a dark goatee each October as the dye from the husks stains the fur around their mouths.

Harvesting butternuts is a family tradition. My mom tells me that Grandpa had a stump out back that he used to break them open. The stump had a hollowed out area to hold one nut at a time. He hit each one with a hammer then painstakingly removed the small nut meat from the shells.



This year, rather than watch the squirrels make off with all the bounty, we decided to harvest a few butternuts for ourselves. Wrapped up under our Christmas tree this year I found an industrial-strength nut cracker, from Jim.