The Black Walnut Tree

June 21, 2010

It’s officially summer today. Unless you live in the south, in which case, it’s already been summer for a few months now. It’s hot and its going to keep getting hotter, so the natives tell me.

Drew and I didn’t do anything summer solstice specific (say that 3 times fast) this weekend, however, we did indulge in a couple of tasty ice cream cones from The Pied Piper Creamery down the street from our house. I’ve had quite a few top notch ice cream cones in my day, but none quite as creative, both in flavor and in name, as what you’ll find at The Pied Piper. Do you choose based on the name or its ingredients? It’s a tough decision when faced with flavors like Someday My Mints Will Come or Lemon Ginger Custard or The Heath Is On or Rosewater Pistachio Saffron or my personal favorite, Chai Curious. I decided on a scoop of Oatmeal Raisin In The Sun and for Drew, some Trailer Trash. They were both delicious.

I’ve sort of been obsessed with ice cream lately. Not actually making it, since I am sans an ice cream maker, or even eating it for that matter, although The Pied Piper might have changed all that this weekend. No, I am just completely fascinated by all the unique flavor combinations people are coming up with nowadays. When I was a kid I used to think that Peppermint Stick was the coolest flavor ever since it had actual chunks of candy cane in it. A little taste of Christmas in the summer.

But the recipe for Black Walnut Ice Cream in The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern cookbook brought my intrigue up to a whole new level. Before I’d laid eyes on that recipe, my only knowledge of black walnuts was from the giant tree in the front yard of the house where I grew up, that littered the grass with its bright green softball sized fruit. And let me tell you, those things hurt if you happened to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. We cursed that tree. It was the reason we were only able to have a tiny rock garden with a handful of hostas and a few tufts of ivy, since the black walnuts killed anything that couldn’t handle being smothered by their lead weight. Which, incidentally, was most living plants.

But when I saw this recipe the other day, my heart suddenly grew fond of those precious walnuts. All those years selling lemonade for 10 cents a cup (25 cents if it was during the Ann Arbor Art Fair…supply and demand) and I’d had a potential goldmine right there in front of me. I also felt a twinge of regret, like maybe I was too quick to judge back in those days. If only I could’ve seen the gem that lay buried inside that ugly green shell. But the past is the past, and I am much more openminded now. So once I have an ice cream maker, I hope to make up for lost time and redeem the black walnut from its place in my memory as the destroyer of all things sweet and lovely.

It better be some good ice cream.

P.S. My horticulture guru friend, Andrea Fox (or better known in these parts as Foxy) has informed me that in fact it is NOT the weight of the fruit that destroys everything, instead it is a ‘toxic phytochemical named Juglone that the roots exude, preventing the roots of other plants from gaining a foothold. Kind of like the bully that knocks the ice cream cone out of your hand just as your tongue is about to take the first lick.’ Well said, Foxy, well said. This blog sounds smarter now because of you. I love it.


2 Responses to “The Black Walnut Tree”

  1. andrea Says:

    i don’t know, i think someday my mints will come sounds pretty fantastic… try it for me, will ya?
    as your favorite horticulturist i feel inclined to tell you it’s not the weight of the tree that prevents anything but hOstas from growing, it’s a toxic phytochemical named juglone that the roots exude, preventing the roots of other plants from gaining a foothold. yea, kind of like the bully that knocks the ice cream cone out of your hand, just as your tongue is about to take the first lick. anyhoo, enjoy your ice cream, and happy solstice!

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