Unsurprisingly, the people of the area in times gone by would have done exactly the same. The walnuts were saved until the weather forced everyone indoors and other work was impractical. Yvon, the man from over the road (he is 87 years old and still dancing), came over to give us instruction on how to shell nuts. His wife, Renne, is recovering from a broken hip in a rehabilitation centre until she can manage the 15 steps up to their front door. Yvon likes some company and ensured that we understand how to hit a nut with a hammer and pick up the pieces. The expert way, if you're interested, is to have a flat rock with a small depression, hold the walnut in it, pointy end up, and tap it. Then a pocket knife is useful to free stubborn pieces of kernal from the shell and to remove the paper bit in the middle.
We spent about 5 days smashing up over 80kg of walnuts, multiple sackfuls of them. This gave us 31kg of edible bits (actually more but some were, ahem, organically disposed of...). At the press they were prcoessed through several machines and were minced, warmed, cooked and squished to produce 19 litres of oil and some dry stuff that looks like mdf but is technically edible. Nic, our friend and host, was adamant that it could be used in soup but I think the chickens ought to learn to like it!
We've each taken an arty farty shot, they're in the album - whose is best?
Locally, walnut oil is a traditional food source. This year the fruit dried on the trees and as it was so hot, the nuts were collected and stored without any careful drying out period. Different tree varieties require different temperatures and drying times for storage. The bountiful harvest on Nic's trees waited until the cold set in. This was when we thought it would be a good time to visit. Not our best change of location as far as weather goes - we swapped warm and sunny Algarve for a draughty, old C13th building with no heating. Or simply put, we went from plus 16 to minus 16 degrees C. Huddling around the only working wood stove in the building, we shelled the walnuts. 3 metres away from the stove, it rarely got above 10 degrees. We sat as close as we could to the fire without scorching our legs, wearing all our clothes in our rucksacks and some of Nic's.