Of The Wallnut
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
1. Juglans, quasi Jovis glans, the' wall or welch-nut (though no where growing of it self, some say, in Europe) is of several sorts ; Monsieur Rencaume (of the French Academy) reckons nine ; the soft-shell and the hard, the whiter and the blacker grain : This black bears the worst nut, but the timber much to be preferred, and we might propagate more of them if we were careful to procure them out of Virginia, where they abound and bear a squarer nut, of all other the most beautiful, and best worth planting ; indeed had we store of these, we should soon despise the rest ; yet those of Grenoble come in the next place, and are much priz'd by our cabinet-makers : In all events, be sure to plant from young and thriving trees, bearing full and plump kernels. It is said that the walnut-kernel wrap'd in its own leaf, being carefully taken out of its shell, brings a nut without shell, but this is a trifle ; the best way to elevate them, is to set them as you do the chesnut, being planted of the nut, or set at the distance you would have him stand ; for which they may be prepar'd by beating them off the tree (as was prescribed of the chesnut) some days before they quit the branches of themselves, and kept in their husks, or without them, till Spring, or by bedding them (being dry) in sand, or good earth, till March or earlier, from the time they fell, or were beaten off the tree : Or if before, they be set with husk and all upon them ; for the extream bitterness thereof is most exitial and deadly to worms ; or it were good to strew some furzes (broken or chopp'd small) under the ground amongst them, to preserve them from mice and rats, when their shells begin to wax tender ; especially if, as some, you supple them a little in warm cows milk ; but being treated as before, you will find them already sprouted, and have need only to be planted where they are to abide ; because (as we said long since) they are most impatient of transplanting : But if there be an absolute necessity of removing, let your tree never be above four years old, and then by no means touch the head with your knife, nor cut away so much as the very top-root, being so old, if you can well dispose of it, since being of a pithy and hollow substance, the least diminution, or bruise, will greatly endanger the killing : But see here what we have said of the chesnut. I have been told, that the very tops, and palish buds of this tree, when it first sprouts, though as late as April, will take hold of the ground, and grow to an incredible improvement ; but first they steep them in milk and saffron ; but this attempt did not succeed with us, yet it will be propagated by a branch slipp'd off with some of the old wood, and set in February : An industrious and very experienc'd husbandman told me, that if they he transplanted as big as ones middle, it may be done safer than when younger ; I do only report it: What they hint of putting a tile-shard under the nuts when first set, to divaricate and spread the roots (which are otherwise apt to penetrate very deep) I like well enough ; 'tis certain they will receive their own cyons being graffed, and that it does improve their fruit. The best compost is the strewing of ashes at the foot of the trees, the salt whereof being washed into the earth, is the best dressing, whilst the juice of the fallen leaves, though it kill the worm, is noxious to the root. This tree does not refuse to thrive even among others, and in great woods, provided you shrip up the collateral arms.
2. The walnut delights in a dry, sound and rich land; especially if it incline to a feeding chalk, or marie ; and where it may be protected from the cold (though it affect cold rather than extream heat) as in great pits, valleys and high-way sides ; also in stony-grounds, if loamy, and on hills, especially chalky ; likewise in corn-fields : Thus Burgundy abounds with them, where they stand in the midst of goodly wheat-lands, at sixty, and an hundred foot distance; and it is so far from hurting the crop, that they look on them as a great preserver, by keeping the grounds warm ; nor do the roots hinder the plow. Whenever they fell a tree (which is only the old and decayed) they always plant a young one near him ; and in several places twixt Hanaw and Francfort in Germany, no young farmer whatsoever is permitted to marry a wife, till he bring proof that he hath planted, and is a father of such a stated number of walnut-trees, as the law is inviolably observed to this day, for the extraordinary benefit which this tree affords the in-habitants : And in truth, were this timber in greater plenty amongst us, we should have far better utensils of all sorts for our houses, as chairs, stools, bedsteads, tables, wainscot, cabinets, &c. instead of the more vulgar beech, subject to the worm, weak, and unsightly ; but which to counterfeit, and deceive the unwary, they wash over with a decoction made of the green-husks of walnuts, &c. I say, had we store of this material, especially of the Virginian, we should find an incredible improvement in the more stable furniture of our houses, as in the first frugal and better days of Rome, when have prov'd so sound, as we shew in our chapter of felling. It is certain, that the mensae nucince, were once in price even before the citrin, as Strabo notes ; and nothing can be more beautiful than some planks and works which I have beheld of it, especially that which comes from Grenoble, of all other the most beautiful and esteemed.
3. They render most graceful avenues to our countrey dwellings, and do excellently near hedge- rows ; but had need be planted, at forty or fifty foot interval, for they affect to spread both their roots and branches. The Bergstras (which extends from Heidelberg to Darmstadt) is all planted with walnuts ; for so by another ancient law, the borderers were obliged to nurse up, and take care of them ; and that chiefly, for their ornament and shade ; so as a man may ride for many miles about that countrey under a continued arbour, or close-walk ; the traveller both refreshed with the fruit and the shade, which some have causelesly defam'd for its ill effects on the head, for which the fruit is a specifique and a notable signature ; although I deny not, but the scent of the fallen leaves, when they begin to be damp'd with lying, may emit somewhat a heady steam, which to some has prov'd noxious ; but not whilst they were fresh, and lively upon the trees. How would such publick plantations improve the glory and wealth of a nation ! But where shall we find the spirits among our countreymen ? Yes, I will adventure to instance in those plantations of Sir Richard Stidolph, upon the downs near Lether-head in Surrey ; Sir Robert Clayton at Morden near Godstone (once belonging to Sir John Evelyn) and so about Cassaulton, where many thousands of these trees do celebrate the industry of the owners, and will certainly reward it with infinite improvement, as I am assured they do in part already, and that very considerably ; besides the ornament which they afford to those pleasant tracts, for some miles in circumference. There was lately (and for ought I know is yet) an avenue of four leagues in length, and 5 o paces breadth, planted with young oaklings, as strait as a line, from the city of Utrecht to Amersfort, affording a most goodly prospect ; which minds me of what Sorbiere tells in a sceptical discourse to Monsieur de Martel, speaking of the readiness of the people in Holland to furnish and maintain whatsoever may conduce to the publick ornament, as well as convenience ; that their plantations of these and the like trees, even in their very roads and common highways, are better preserv'd and entertain'd (as I my self have likewise been often an eye-witness) than those about the houses and gardens of pleasure belonging to the nobles and gentry of most other countries : And in effect it is a most ravishing object, to behold their amenities in this particular : With us, says he (speaking of France) they make a jest at such political ordinances, by ruining these publick and useful ornaments, if haply some more prudent magistrate do at any time intro-duce them. Thus in the reign of Henry the Fourth, (during the superintendency of Monsieur de Sulli) there was a resolution of adorning all the highways of France with elms, 0c. but the rude and mischievous peasants did so hack, steal and destroy what they had begun, that they were forced to desist from the thorough prosecution of the design ; so as there is nothing more expos'd, wild, and less pleasant than the common roads of France for want of shade, and the decent limits which these sweet and divertissant plantations would have afforded. Not to omit that political use, as my Lord Bacon hints it, where he speaks of the statues and monuments of brave men, and such as had well deserv'd of the publick, erected by the Romans even in their highways ; since doubt-less, such noble and agreeable objects would exceedingly divert, entertain, and take off the minds and discourses of melancholy people, and pensive travellers, who having nothing but the dull and enclosed ways to cast their eyes on, are but ill conversation to themselves, and others, and instead of celebrating, censure their superiors. It is by a curious person, and industrious friend of mine, observ'd, that the sap of this tree rises and descends with the sun's diurnal course (which it visibly slackens in the night) and more plentifully at the root on the south side, though those roots cut on the north were larger, and less distant from the body of the tree ; and not only distill'd from the ends, which were next the stem, but from those which were cut off and separated, which was never observ'd to happen in the birch, or other sap-yielding trees.
4. What universal use the French make of the timber of this sole tree, for domestic affairs, may be seen in every room both of poor and rich : It is of singular account with the joyner, for the best grain'd, and colour'd wainscot ; with the gun-smith for stocks, for coach-wheels excellent, and the bodies of coaches, (they make hoops and bows with it in New-England, for want of yew :) The drum-maker uses it for rimbs, the cabinet-maker for inlayings, especially the firm and close timber about the roots, which is admirable for fleck'd and chambletted works, some wood especially, as that which we have from Bologne, New-England and Virginia, (where they are of three or four sorts, differing in their leaves, fruit and stature) very black of colour, and so admirably streaked, as to represent natural flowers, landskips, and other fancies : To render this the better-coloured, joyners put the boards into an oven after the batch is forth, or lay them in a warm stable, and when they work it, polish it over with its own oyl very hot, which makes it look black and sleek, and the older it is, the more esteemable ; but then it should not be put in work till thoroughly seasoned, because it will shrink beyond expectation. It is only not good to confide in it much for beams or joysts, because of its brittleness, of which yet, it has been observ'd to give timely notice, as also the chesnut, by the crackling before it breaks. Besides the uses of the wood, the fruit with husk and all, when tender and very young, is for preserves (condited in separate decoctions, by our curious ladies) also for food and oyl ; of extraordinary use with the painter, in whites, and other delicate colours, also for gold-size and varnish ; and with this they polish walking-staves, and other works which are wrought in with burning : For food they fry with it in some places, and eat it instead of butter, in Berry, where they have little or none good ; and therefore they plant infinite numbers of these trees all over that countrey : The use of it to burn in lamps, is common there. The younger timber is held to make the better-coloured work (and so the oak) but the older more firm and close, is finer chambleted for ornament ; and the very husks and leaves being macerated in warm water, and that liquor poured on the carpet of walks, and bowling-greens, does infallibly kill the worms, without endangering the grass : Not to mention the dye which is made of this lixive, to colour wooll, woods, and hair, as of old they us'd it. The water of the husks is sovereign against all pestilential infections, and that of the leaves to mundifie and heal inveterate ulcers. That which is produced of the thick-shell, becomes best timber, that of the thinner, better fruit. Columella has sundry excellent rules how to ascertain and accelerate the growth of this tree, and to improve its qualities ; and I am assur'd, that having been graffed on the ash (though others say no incision improves it) it thrives exceedingly, becomes a handsome tree, and what is most estimable, bears its fruit within four years, all which I recommend to the farther industrious. The green husk dry'd, or the first peeping red buds and leaves reduced to powder, serves instead of pepper, to condite meats and sauces. 'Tis thought better to cudgel off the fruit, when dropping ripe, than to gather it by hand; and that the husk may open, lay them by in a dry room, sometimes turning them with a broom, but without washing, for fear of mouldiness. In Italy they arm the tops of long poles with nails and iron for the purpose, and believe the beating improves the tree ; which I no more believe, than I do that discipline would reform a perverse shrew : Those nuts which come not easily out of their husks, should be laid to mellow in heaps, and the rest expos'd in the sun, till the shells dry, else they will be apt to perish the kernel : Some again preserve them in their own leaves, or in a chest made of walnut-tree wood ; others in sand, especially if you will preserve them for a seminary ; do this in October, and keep them a little moist, that they may spear, to be set early in February : Thus after two years they may be removed at a yard asunder, cutting the top-root, and side branches, but sparing the head; and being two yards high, bud, or remove them immediately. Old nuts are not wholsome till mace-rated in warm, and almost boiling water ; but if you lay them in a leaden pot, and bury them in the earth, so as no vermin can attaque them, they will keep marvellously plump the whole year about, and may easily be blanched : In Spain they use to strew the gratings of old and hard nuts (first peel'd) into their tarts and other meats. For the oyl, one bushel of nuts will yield fifteen pounds of peel'd and clear kernels, and that half as much oyl, which the sooner 'tis drawn, is the more in quantity, though the dryer the nut, the better in quality ; the lees, or marc of the pressing, is excellent to fatten hogs with. After the nuts are beaten down, the leaves would be sweep'd into heaps, and carried away, because their extreme bitterness impairs the ground, and as I am assured, prejudices the trees : The green husks boiled, make a good colour to dye a dark yellow, without any mixture ; and the distillation of its leaves with honey and urine, makes hair spring on baldheads : Besides its use in the famous Salernitan antidote ; if the kernel a little masticated, be applied to the biting of a suspected mad-dog, and when it has lain three hours, be cast to poultrey, they will die if they eat of it. In Italy, when a countreyman finds any pain in his side, he drinks a pint of the fresh oyl of this nut, and finds immediate ease : And more famous is the wonderful cure, which the fungus substance separating the lobs of the kernel, pulveriz'd and drank in wine, in a moderate quantity, did recover the English army in Ireland of a dyssentary, when no other remedy could prevail : The sanie also in pleurisies, &c. The juice of the outward rind of the nut, makes an excellent gargle for a sore-throat : The kernel being rubb'd upon any crack or chink of a leaking or crazy vessel, stops it better than either clay, pitch, or wax : In France they eat them blanch'd and fresh, with wine and salt, having first cut them out of the shells before they are hardned, with a short broad brass-knife, because iron rusts, and these they call cernais, from their manner of scooping them out. Lastly, of the fungus emerging from the trunk of an old tree, (and indeed some others) is made touch-wood, artificially prepar'd in a lixivium or lye, dried, and beaten flat, and then boil'd with salt-peter, to render it apter to kindle. The tree wounded in the Spring, yields a liquor, which makes an artificial wine. See Birch, cap. XVII. Of other species, see Mr. Ray's Dendrolog. Tom. III. p.