Banana Bread, Black Walnuts, and other thoughts…

I had the idea that I was going to pop out of bed early and make the banana bread whose ingredients I laid out on my counter last night.  That didn’t happen (well, the getting up early did), but it’s in the oven now.

We don’t eat bananas a lot around here (they aren’t exactly local), but it just so happened that we picked up a bunch a couple weeks ago and three of them were browning beautifully on the counter, so I cracked out the old recipe and got to it around 10 a.m.

The recipe is basic (so basic, it’s not really worth repeating here), but it calls for 1/2 cup of Crisco, which has been banned from my house for over a year now (and sat unused in the fridge for some time before that).  I substituted a stick of organic sweet butter.

It also calls for 1 1/2 cups of flour, sifted, which I take to mean all-purpose unbleached white.  I used a half n’ half mixture of Wheat Montana white and the certified organic local whole wheat flour I picked up and stowed in the downstairs freezer back in October.

Now, I was really excited to get local organic flour, but I’m a little disappointed in the quality of that flour.  It’s not that it isn’t tasty and grainy goodness, but there’s a lot of stuff in there that really should be sifted out before it gets into the bag.  I have been sifting it out before it goes in my recipes.

One thing that’s called for but I’m not putting in my bread at all is walnuts.  I was always in charge of the nuts when my mom made this recipe–I’d feed the pre-shelled walnuts into the little hand-chopper and hold it up every once in awhile for my mom to inspect and decide whether what was in the glass jar below the little blades was enough for her recipe.

It is pretty much impossible to get decent, non-bitter, non-rancid walnuts in the store here, but it made me start thinking about local options.  Black walnut trees are actually very common in this area–where folks haven’t cut them down because of the mess they make and their tendency to impair the growth of other plants around them.

But black walnuts are also hard to crack–so hard that without a cracker designed specifically for the job, the usual methods involve a hammer (which tends to send walnut shards flying in every direction) or simply driving over them with a car (which is kind of unpalatable).

Still, they are easy enough to find, and I’ve got a hammer (no singing please).

The relative ubiquity of black walnuts makes me question why, in my mad dashes around the countryside with a ladder in my truck, collecting various kinds of local fruit, I haven’t simply walked down the sidewalk with a sack to collect black walnuts when they start falling from the trees and littering the sidewalk.

It makes me wonder what other local food possibilities I’m neglecting in my community–whether in plain sight or somewhat hidden–maybe even right under my feet.

Local ingredients (in the banana bread): flour, egg.

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