THE BUTTERNUT - WHITE WALNUT OR OILNUT.
J. cinerea, Linn.
In eastern woods the butternut is known by its long, pointed nuts, with deeply and raggedly sculptured shells, in fuzzy, clammy, sticky husks that stain the hands of him who attempts to get at the oily meat before the husks are dry. This dark stain was an important dye in the time when homespun cotton cloth was worn by men and boys. The modern khaki resembles in color the "butternut jeans," in which backwoods regiments of the Civil War were clad. Butternut husks and bark yield also a drug of cathartic properties.
Pickling green oilnuts in their husks is a housewifely industry, on the summer programme of many housewives still, if the woods near by furnish the raw material for em ploying her great-grandmother's recipe, brought from Eng land, or perhaps from France. The green nuts are tested with a knitting needle. If it goes through them with no difficulty, and yet the nuts are of good size, they are ready. Vigorous rubbing removes the fuzz after the nuts are scalded. Then they are pickled whole, in spiced vinegar, and
are a rare, delectable relish with meats for the winter table.
A butternut tree, beside the road, or elsewhere, with room to grow, has a short trunk, and a low, broad head, with a downward droop to the horizontal limbs. The bark is light brown, the limbs grayish green, the twigs and leaves all ooze a clammy, waxy, aromatic sap, and are covered with fine hairs of velvety abundance.
Because it is low and rather wayward in growth, late to leaf out in spring, and early to shed its leaves in summer, the butternut is not a good street tree. It breaks easily in the wind, and crippled trees are more common than well-grown specimens. Insect and fungous enemies beset the species, and take advantage of breaks to invade the twigs through the chambered pith. Short-lived trees they are, whose brown, satiny wood is used in cabinet work, but is not plentiful.