If you’re tempted to write the word “peanuts” in the income section of your IRS form, don’t.

According to OSU Cooperative Extension Educator Roger Williams, should you make the mistake of claiming peanuts as your income, the IRS will audit you for not depreciating your peanut “trees.”

Now, most people know peanuts aren’t nuts at all, but legumes, and they certainly don’t grow on trees, they grow on vines - just like all good beans.

“If the IRS says peanuts are nuts, they’re nuts,” joked Williams.

Green Country is probably best-known for its pecans, but Williams said a number of nuts can be grown in this climate.

“The climate here is good for growing pecan, of course, but also hickory, black walnuts and chestnuts,” said Williams. “You won’t find chestnuts anymore, though, because they were wiped out by a disease a number of years back.”

Williams has been studying a new cultivar of the now-extinct nut, so those hoping to roast chestnuts on an open fire in the future may have a chance.

“[Chestnut-growing] takes a different kind of tree here in Oklahoma, due to our climate,” said Williams. “Hopefully, the new cultivars will catch on and we’ll have an effort to regrow chestnuts back into the landscape.”

Williams is also watching the cultivation of a new nut, hoping it will gain popularity in Oklahoma.

“There’s a new soft-shell black walnut being cultivated in Missouri,” said Williams. “I think if enough people hear about it, it will become popular for growing here in Oklahoma.”

According to the Hammons Product Company Web site, a Missouri-based walnut operation, Eastern Black walnuts are native to the central and eastern United States. Used in cooking and baking, they have a robust and distinct flavor that sets them apart from the more widely known English walnut.

“Nutritious, flavorful, and good keepers when refrigerated or frozen, Black walnuts are a tasty addition to everything from appetizers to desserts,” states the site.

In addition, black walnuts are a healthy food. According to the nutrition information available, black walnuts are low in saturated fats, have no cholesterol, and are high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats - the good fats - which can, in some cases, lower LDL - or bad - cholesterol levels without doing harm to HDL - or good - cholesterol levels. Black walnuts also contain iron, minerals and fiber, and contain no sugar.

“Recent studies have indicated that people who ate nuts once a week had 25 percent less heart disease than people who avoided nuts completely,” states the site. “And because nuts are included in the meats, poultry, fish, dry beans and nuts food group, you can enjoy them every day while enhancing your good health.”

Those interested in the healthy aspect of eating nuts may want to pay the Boutross family a call at Blessed Harvest Organic Foods, 906 S. Muskogee.

“We carry a variety of organically grown, raw nuts,” said Lisa Boutross. “Varieties include walnuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts and Brazil nuts.”

All varieties are available pre-roasted, as well. The shop also sells sunflower and pumpkin seeds for nut lovers.

“Almonds, walnuts and cashews seem to be what we sell most of,” said Boutross. “That, and pecans, which we’re out of right now due to the holiday season.”

Because Blessed Harvest specializes in certified organic foods, the Boutrosses are prevented from buying their stock locally.

“When I bake, I usually use walnuts, almonds and pecans,” said Boutross.

Roger Eubanks, produce manager for Reasor’s, uses his nut when it comes to buying nuts in bulk.

“The most popular nuts, by far, are the pecan and the walnut,” said Eubanks. “Most of the pecans are purchased in the area, but loose [not pre-packaged] nuts can only be purchased from October through the first part of January, when they’re at their peak of freshness.”

Richard Johnson, owner of Johnson’s Nutty Acres, has been in the business since 1984. Aside from growing his own, he buys pecans and walnuts from the public. He then sells his supply to larger suppliers, like Hammond Products in Arkansas.

Johnson says that nature, the annual influx of pests, and the long time to pay-out make nut farming a hard row to hoe.

“It takes a lifetime just to get into it,” he said. “I’m just now getting to where there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

Johnson Nutty Acres boasts about 400 pecan trees and 300 walnut trees, with the walnut trees being the youngest. According to Johnson, it takes approximately 10 years for a walnut tree to mature.

Area residents who are interested in growing pecans may find the 2006 Fundamentals of Pecan Management course of interest. Sponsored by Oklahoma State University, the course will be held at the Oklahoma Fruit Research Station, one-half mile north of the intersection of State Highways 33 and 177, near Perkins. The course begins Feb. 21.

“The course will focus on the prioritization and practical application of major management practices by month,” said Eric Stafne, fruit and nut specialist for the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. “We’ve had really good feedback about this course in the past, and we believe it will continue to have a positive impact on the pecan industry in Oklahoma.”

Experienced specialists and industry professionals will be on-hand to share their expertise during the course, which meets from 1-5 p.m. monthly, from February to October.

“We want to provide an in-depth experience, both in the classroom and the orchard, for current and prospective pecan growers,” Stafne said.

Learn more

To find out more about the Fundamentals of Pecan Management course, call Stephanie Larimer at (405) 744-5404, or e-mail her at stephanie.larimer@okstate.edu.

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