I’d like to think I’ve accumulated a lot of plant knowledge over the years, but my tree knowledge is embarrassingly thin. It’s all down to the fact that I don’t have anywhere to plant and grow one. I’ve grown small fruit-producing trees from pits, limes and kumquats, and the odd houseplant tree in pots but what I know about real, outdoor trees could fit in the palm of my hand.
However, if I did have a backyard or a piece of land I would be all over looking for food-producing trees to grow. In my land-owning fantasies I imagine growing my own apples, pears, plumes, peaches, apricots and most especially cherries. And until recently I hadn’t thought too much past these obvious options because I assumed they were pretty much the standard food trees suited to this region. But this year my fantasies have been expanded by the wild foods supplier at my local farmers market. They’ve been selling fruit and nuts from locally grown trees this past autumn and it has been a real shock to discover what will grow here. For example, just this past week alone I bought persimmons, butternuts (Juglans cinerea), sweet chestnuts, and my new favorite, hickory nuts (Carya). They were selling paw paws but I didn’t get to the market in time. I knew paw paws grew in parts of the southern US but had no idea there were trees growing around Toronto! I bought hazelnuts a few weeks back and walnuts at a local corner shop about a month back.
The hazelnuts were amazing — I did not buy enough. I love that I can make tasty, roasted chestnuts that aren’t imported all the way from China. And the hickory nuts have a fresh pecan-like flavor that finally makes me less jealous of southerners who can just pick up and eat pecans straight off the ground. It doesn’t matter that the walnuts were terrible, the persimmons coated my mouth with a strange film, or that the butternuts are delicious but physically impossible to open — I’m just excited to know they will grow here and that when and if my fantasies become reality, I’ll have far more choices then I ever imagined possible.