Okanagan Chestnuts

Here’s a crop we see too little of in the valley: nuts. It’s like having Christmas on the tree. Gone are the days when we used to sit in front of the crackling fireplace with a bucket of heartnuts, a ballpeen hammer, and an anvil, and smash the nuts open to get at their sweet hearts. But here are the days when the Italian grocers of Vancouver are starting to source their biggest, sweetest nuts not from Italy or China, but from the South Okanagan. The only limitation is that the few acres we have are still young and only coming into production. Here’s an image of a young commercial chestnut orchard at McIntyre Bluff:

Chestnuts in First Snow

These trees are growing in almost pure sand. What’s left of the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture suggests that chestnuts will thrive wherever apricots and peaches have proven hardy. These, actually, appear to be doing better on this “soil” than the apricots and peaches they share it with. 

In order to ensure pollination and to vary the genetic stock of the orchard so that it is less resistant to blight or other unforeseen attacks, the main stock of the farm is being augmented with seedling trees, currently under trial production. Here’s another view:

Chestnuts too Small to Make the Grade…

…but looking mighty fine against a Christmas sky.

Now, here’s a game you can play…it’s called: find that orchard. If you know the Okanagan, you should be able to locate it by the hints in the words and images of this post. If not, hey, a trip from Penticton to Haynes Point, with a map on the seat beside you, should do the trick.

And if you keep on driving, and say nice things to the ladies at the Oroville Border Crossing, you’ll come to this:

Packinghouse Waiting for a New Life

Downtown, Ellisforde, Washington

The Canadian Okanagan might have very little land left for chestnuts, that’s not already committed for houses, winery gift shops, strip malls, and peach orchards, but the valley has lots, just a few miles south where the sun shines with almost incandescent brightness. Here, for example:

Abandoned Orchard 

Near Ellisforde, Washington

It’s time, I think, that we started thinking of what we could achieve together.

Note: my promised post on trails is waiting until the New Year, as Christmas is fast approaching and feasting season is upon us. Tomorrow: views of an Okanagan Christmas.

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