Just as temperatures dip a little and the fierce heat of summer subsides, the almonds, which have been clinging to our trees since spring, suddenly pop their velvety green casings and the nuts exhibit themselves like wanton whores just begging for attention. Leave them too long and the velvety casings surrounding the nuts will harden, making it very difficult to separate them. The best way to attend to the task of harvesting the nuts is to take a long stick to the trees and to strike the branches sharply, causing nuts to cascade to the ground onto nets already spread beneath the trees, making it much easier to collect them.
Well, it would if we had the sort of garden that lent itself to spreading nets beneath the trees in order to collect the nuts. It doesn’t quite work that way in our garden. First – I don’t have any nets, but even if I did, they wouldn’t be a lot of use because our garden is almost completely paved, and on a slope, which means that cascading nuts bounce merrily down the slope to disappear into flower beds, under the hedge at the bottom of the garden and into a rather tricky little gully filled with weeds, around which wasps congregate. Nevertheless, I have to gather my nuts so a few days ago I began smacking our five almond trees with a broken walking pole saved especially for the purpose, dodged almost all of the falling nuts, then spent a long time collecting the nuts from under the hedge, from the flower beds and from the wasp-infested gully. I then had to sort them into two piles; one of almonds inside their husks and another of almonds that had fallen from their husks and were ready for use. After that came the tedious task of separating reluctant nuts from their husks, which takes hours of fiddly prying and poking resulting in sore, green fingers and an aching back from leaning over a sack and bucket for hours on end.
I now have a lot of nuts to crack – a task usually undertaken while watching Formula One on TV. This year, though, there are more nuts than ever – far more than I can ever imagine getting through even if the F1 season lasted twice as long. I know what I’ll be doing through those long, winter nights ahead. I’ll be watching Strictly Come Dancing to the unsteady rhythm of nuts cracking, six nations rugby will be interrupted by the sound of nuts cracking, on and off the field, nuts will be cracking all through the build-up to Christmas until finally, on Christmas Day, we will be ealting something, nay every possible Christmas recipe that contains almonds. I must be nuts!