Written By Galen White
I received an email from Art, who said he had been keepin’ up with my foolishness in the paper every week. Well…., no, he didn’t call it foolishness, but that’s ’cause he was bein’ nice.
Art said he is originally from Claiborne Parish, and that alone makes him a pretty good dude. Well, I don’t know about the pretty part, after all I’ve never met him. Furthermore, I prefer the use of the word “pretty” to be applied to the ladies. But if he keeps up with my articles, he’s gotta be a good man.
Anyway, Art asked, and I quote, “whatever happened to hickory nuts, black walnuts, chestnuts, chinquapins, figs, mayhaws, scuppernongs, persimmons, grape arbors, and does anyone still know how to make watermelon rind preserves?”
He went on to say somethin’ ’bout me bein’ the educated man and that I knew how to spell the names of the ones he didn’t. When I finally stopped laughin’, I answered his email and advised I may be the most uneducated individual he has ever run up on. As far as my spellin’ is concerned, I thank the good Lord above for the guy who invented “spell-check” and put it on my computer!
Regardless, Art got me to thinkin’. Yeah, yeah. I know. It can be quite dangerous when I do that. But I’m gonna risk it.
I began by rememberin’ the days when I was a kid and livin’ at home with my folks. My dad would drive down to White Creek where it wiggled it way through our lower pasture, and backed our ol’ truck up to the edge of the creek bank. He’d get so close to the edge of the bank I was afraid he was gonna back off into the creek. And in some places, the bank was steep and deep enough that gettin’ otta the creek would take a bull dozer.
Dad’s goal was gettin’ close enough to the vines so we could stand in the bed of the truck and pick muscadines – or as we called ’em, musky dimes. If my thinkin’ is right, they are also referred to as “possum grapes”. Now, these possum grapes are not to be confused with a cousin of mine, who is fondly called Possum Grape, or just Grape, for short.
Then there are the mayhaws. Folks, if there is such a thing as ol’ Galen havin’ a favorite jelly, then it’s gotta be mayhaw jelly! And I’ve got a good friend who is in the business of makin’ and sellin’ it. Mr. Reuben “Spec” Sherrill, of Arcadia, LA., makes mayhaw jelly that is every bit as good as my mom used to make. And that, my friends, is sayin’ a LOT! You might think that ol’ Spec would send me a jar for mentionin’ him. In reality, he should send me a jar just for admittin’ I know who he is!
Now, you may not think there’s much difference in preserves and jelly, but there is. Preserves contain the actual fruit or berry where jelly is made from its juice. Pear preserves run a hard race for my favorite, but lose out to fig preserves by several steps. The last jar of fig preserves I had came from Mrs. Linda Dillon. Let me tell you somethin’; that jar was so good I would only eat one fig at the time, hopin’ to make ’em last a long time. Mmm, mmm! Scrumptious!
As for the black walnuts, chestnuts, and chinquapins, I was never much of a fan. Pecans, as in pecan pie, and almonds are my favorite nuts. Of course, I’ve a few friends walkin’ around out there that I believe are nuts. But I think a lot of them, too.
Watermelon rind preserves I’ve heard of, but can’t honestly say I’ve ever had any. If I have, then I’ve forgotten about it. Let me know if you have any comments about ’em.
As Art asked, what has happened to all of the above goodies? Some of the blame lies on timber companies and land owners who have clear cut acres and acres of habitat, thus effectively killing the vines, bushes and trees. And I very well remember painting persimmon tree stumps with poison so we could kill them and keep them from growing in the hay field. There are a few persimmon trees left around, though. Find one and you can bet it will be a good place to put your deer stand.
Today, there is little need to can jellies and preserves like they did when I was a kid. Young folks don’t have the desire or need since such products are mass produced and chain grocery stores usually have a huge inventory of such items.
It’s a shame the know-how is dyin’, though. After all, look around you at today’s economical and financial situations. What would we do if the world suffered a complete economic collapse? Would there be enough folks who know how to can fruits and vegetables? Heck! How may would know how to grow a garden?
Anyway, thanks, Art, for your email. And if you happen to have a spare jar of fig preserves……………..
Galen White has written articles for several papers in North Louisiana and is now retired.