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Eating the Past: Arkansas' food source in the Ozarks

Several roasted pecans grouped together

Hello, this is Tammy Proctor. It's farmer's market time, so I have local products on my mind, and I dream of harvesting fruit and vegetables,
foraging mushrooms and nuts, and cooking up a feast. For today's state, Arkansas, I want to talk about the rich foraging history and possibilities
of the Ozarks, located in the northern part of the state.

The rugged and sometimes remote Ozarks Mountains have long been attractions for those wanting to fish for bass or trout or those searching for morel
mushrooms. But not that many people know about another rich food source in the Ozarks – nuts – and lots of them. The official state nut of Arkansas is the
pecan, and anyone traveling through the area is going to find pecan pie or pecan bars or other pecan delicacies at local restaurants.

In addition to the pecan, however, there are a number of other nut trees found in the region, many of them native. Some of these nuts are even the focus of
salvage efforts – the Ozark chestnut or chinqapin was long feared to be extinct – but is now part of a large project to restore it based on a few
surviving specimens found deep in the Ozark Mountains.

Today, however, I'd like to focus on two nuts that are less well-known as Ozark staples, the black walnut and the pine nut (which is really a seed).
First the black walnut, which I will admit might be an acquired taste. We had a black walnut tree on our street when I was growing up, so I am
quite familiar with the green, somewhat spongy balls that dropped from the tree in great quantities. the nuts, cocooned inside the green coating,
take some work to extract, and you need to wear gloves or risk staining your hands. the hard inner shell gives way to a hammer . . . usually.

Our preferred method when I was a kid was a hard crack with a hammer using the edge to get a sharp line, then using pliers to prise out the nutmeats.
They need to be washed and dried for a few days. watch for squirrels –they love them! Did I mention that these nuts require some work if you
want to find the treasure inside?

The second Ozark nut that is delicious but not entirely well known as an Ozark native plant is the pine nut, or the pine seed, to be exact. These so-
called nuts are seeds in pine cones from the state tree of Arkansas, the loblolly pine. when pinecones are dried, the seeds can be extracted and
used in recipes, as can pine needles and other parts of the plant. During the Lewis and Clark expedition, for instance, their Shoshone guide,
Sacagawea, brewed pine needle tea for them to help treat scurvy symptoms.

Beyond its nutritional and medicinal value, the pine nut is also delicious prepared in a number of ways. And it turns out that Ozark residents have often
gotten creative with their foraged nuts, creating some truly tasty dishes that are high in vitamin C and protein. Typically, they are pretty simple to prepare as

Two recipes that highlight what I've been discussing are pine nut cornbread and black walnut cookies. The first is a typical Ozarks cornbread but with pine nuts
and rosemary added, which gives the cornbread a flavor and smell that is really wonderful. In a similar way, the black walnut cookies taste like a lot of buttery nut
cookies, but the black walnut flavor comes through in delightful ways.

Both recipes are available on our Eating the Past website.

For more episodes of Eating the Past, please visit the website.

Stay tuned next week for a new state in our tour of the United States.

(This segment originally broadcast in July, 2023)



1-1/4 cups cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup corn (optional)
3 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease a 9x9-inch baking dish.

In a bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milks, buttermilk, honey, and corn, if using.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Fold in butter, pine nuts, and rosemary. Spread batter in prepared baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool slightly before eating.


1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup black walnuts, chopped
1 cup granulated sugar, for dipping

Heat the oven to 375 F, and grease a large baking sheet or line with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, cream the brown sugar and butter until light. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients—flour, baking soda, and salt—and mix to blend well. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture along with the black walnuts; mix well.
Shape the dough into small balls about the size of walnuts. Dip the cookie balls in sugar. Place them on the prepared cookie sheet and press with the bottom of a glass to flatten slightly.
Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Eat!

Tammy Proctor is a specialist in European history, gender, war, and youth. Dr. Proctor has written about Scouting, women spies and the way war affects the lives of ordinary people. Currently she is writing a book on American food relief to Europe during and after World War I. She has worked at Utah State University since 2013 and is a native of Kansas City, Missouri.