Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Before Luther Burbank, Walnuts Made Us Sad

Why not make your last summer book this story of the man who created so many of the wonders in your garden?

Dusty D received this marvelous volume from her in-laws for my birthday. It details the rise of the (eccentric, natch!) Luther Burbank from humble origins to the maestro of a sprawling farm in California. The book is full of fascinating details about plants you grow that likely you never thought twice about, such as the fact that Burbank's potato is the one Monsanto chose to further tweak by adding the insecticide Bt. The gifted finaglings of an offbeat plant guy a century ago are still good enough for a giant food corporation.

Burbank's twiddling with walnuts, and the disappointing (yet humorous) experience most folks had with walnuts prior to Burbank, gave rise to the title of this post, not to mention [geek marriage] a printed-out motto on our fridge. The most memorable image in the book? Burbank's "mother trees" or "nurse trees" in his nursery--each one with over a hundred different slips grafted on, blooming with a hundred different-colored flowers in the spring--and they still exist today! Seek out this marvelous book before summer ends.

8 comments :

Dusty D said...

Dusty D can think of one person in particular who would adore reading this book, and to whom I'd be willing to lend it, contrary to my usual curmudgeonly no-lending book policy.

TeacherPatti said...

I don't know if the book talks about black walnuts, so I will tell you my tale of black walnuts. I bought them from a vendor at the A2 farmers market. When I got them home, I broke two (b/c I am a slow learner) nut crackers on them. I finally consulted The Internet, which told me that black walnuts are almost impossible to open and suggested running over them with your car. I did that and the fuckers still wouldn't open. I finally got pissed and started banging the bag against the ground and, to taunt me, they remained firmly together. With a sigh, I threw them away.
I share my tale with others now so that others will learn.

Dusty D said...

Teacher Patti, that is a mournful tale of woe. :) I am taking note, though, so as to avoid the heartbreak of black walnuts. Bah!

Seriously, though, that's the sort of thing the book covers--how Burbank gave us a better walnut. It's really interesting--one of those "one-sitting" books.

Lisele said...

I'd love to read this.

Re black walnuts--my neighborhood is a black walnut grove but I've never tried to open them. I read one incredibly dangerous-sounding method that involved putting a knife blade-up in a vise and positioning the nut just so, then smacking with a hammer. I wouldn't advise it. But still, I'd love to find a good method -- I can imagine they would yield a wonderful oil if nothing else.

jml said...

The wikipedia page for black walnuts says to soak the walnut for a day in hot water (but sniffs that if you have a proper cracker, you don't need to). And that the outer husk will stain pretty much everything black.

Dusty D said...

jml: Bah, miserable nuts! Lisele, I can mail it to ya/drop it off on porch if you like (yes, you were the person I was thinking of, of course).

Lisele said...

DD, either would be simply outstanding -- thank you, you generous soul!

Dusty D said...

Okeydoke, I'll be bikin' around tomorrow and will drop 'er off. I hope you enjoy it!