We're just nuts about our lo­cal wal­nuts

Our gar­den­ing writer Char­lotte Philcox goes in search of one of our favourite nuts - the wal­nut - and the Suf­folk fam­ily that grows them com­mer­cially.

Let's Talk - - Gardening -

There’s some­thing spe­cial about the taste of a freshly-picked, ripe wal­nut, and a cou­ple from the vil­lage of West Row, in Suf­folk, are car­ry­ing on the lo­cal tra­di­tion of grow­ing them on a small scale for the com­mer­cial mar­ket.

Den­nis and Chris­tine Reeve have about 30 trees, which were planted by Den­nis’ grand­fa­ther, Frank, and fa­ther, Ce­cil.

“We have a mix­ture of wal­nuts,” says Den­nis. “There are 15 trees which tend to pro­duce dou­ble nuts and 16 sin­gles. I’ve ac­tu­ally only ever planted one tree. That was the last one, which we put in for my mother’s 100th birth­day. She went on to live un­til she was 105.”

It’s not only the mem­bers of the Reeve fam­ily who are long-lived, as

an English wal­nut tree can grow for 150 years.

“They take 15 years to be­gin pro­duc­ing,” ad­mits Den­nis. “And once that starts, we’re har­vest­ing for four to five weeks from the end of Septem­ber, as we have to wait for them to drop. It can get a bit mo­not­o­nous, as we have to col­lect them ev­ery day. Up un­til around six years ago, we used to ‘brush’ them down with long bam­boo poles - it was more like thrash­ing - and of­ten had to climb up to get at them. I’m get­ting a bit too long in the tooth for that now, al­though I used to swing around in the trees when I was a young whip­per­snap­per. That’s why my nick­name was ‘Tarzan’.

“Af­ter we’ve got them all har­vested, we put the dirty ones in an old tin bath and give them a bit of a wash and scrub with a brush. Then we put them out to dry on a wire mesh. But it’s dif­fi­cult to find tin baths these days. Every­one used to be glad to get rid of them.”

Den­nis says that this year, de­spite the long win­ter, the trees are full. “They may have liked the fact that we had a wet spring and no frosts,” he ad­mits. “There’s a lot of weight in the dou­ble nuts, and some of the boughs are break­ing. Usu­ally, though, the more wal­nuts you get on a tree, the smaller they will be.

“We get re­quests for the nuts from all over the coun­try, but it’s not worth our while send­ing out just five pounds at a time. Once upon a time, in the 1970s and 1980s if I re­mem­ber rightly, my fa­ther told me that our wal­nuts used to go on the top of Wal­nut Whips. These days all the big­gest dou­ble nuts get sent to Covent Gar­den Mar­ket. In Lon­don, they don’t want the small sin­gle ones, so if you’re lucky, you might find some of those on sale in Nor­wich or Milden­hall mar­kets, and in a lo­cal shop in Brandon. The sin­gle wal­nuts ac­tu­ally taste sweeter, and are my favourite.”

These days, dur­ing the wal­nut sea­son, the Reeves take their har­vest on a 30-mile round trip to a lo­cal haulier who drives down to Lon­don ev­ery day. “He’s very help­ful,” Den­nis says. “All he asks for in re­turn is a pint of beer.”

Chris­tine and Den­nis Reeve with just a few of the wal­nuts.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.