Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I always knew Fall was my favorite season... but I had to wait till I moved to Syracuse to confirm it.
Moving to Syracuse in 2007 introduced me to Maple leaves, crisp early morning runs, pumpkin patches (the real deal...) and apple picking. Yes - Syracuse does Autumn in glorious brilliance!
Last year I learned that London has it's own Autumnal curiosities...like conkers. Every time I pass one, I can hardly stop myself from stooping to pick it up and put it in my pocket. I thought it would be fun to share how I discovered them.
Early last September I was exploring the park across the street from our flat. As I walked beneath the trees I found lovely smooth brown spheres. I stopped and picked a few up thinking I would take them home and ask Nathaniel if he knew what they were. By the time Nathaniel arrived home from school that night, I had concluded that these must be chestnuts...and I was quite charmed by the idea! Nathaniel had a look and said he did not know what they where but he doubted that they were actually chestnuts.
I however, felt sure they must be chestnuts - I was not giving up on the idea! and the next time I went out to the park I made sure to bring along a bag. I happily filled it with these nuts - I confess to dreaming of new recipes I would get to try... and just how British was this to live across from a park filled with chestnut trees!?
Nathaniel remained quite skeptical to their usefulness in the kitchen, and so I agreed to talk to the local expert Aunt Gillian before trying to eat them. Upon inspection Aunt Gillian said, "Of course I know what those are - they're conkers." Conkers?! what in the world are conkers? Aunt Gillian explained.
Conkers actually come from Horse Chestnut trees and are inedible - as apposed to Sweet Chestnut trees which produce chestnuts that are edible. Conkers are completely useless, that is unless you are a child (especially a 7-11 year old boy) - in which case you would pick up several conkers, put holes through the middles, and thread long strings through the holes. The next time you see your mates, you gather up and play "conkers" (find out more detail with pictures here - conkers) where the point of the game is to hit the other persons conker - the one who breaks apart the other's conker wins.
hmmm - very interesting! I thanked Aunt Gillian and trooped back upstairs to inform Nathaniel that it was a good thing he insisted that I find out more about these nuts before I tried to feed them to him! But what to do with all these conkers? I was certainly not about to challenge Nathaniel to a game... not sure if swinging hard round spheres at each other would lead to much bliss in our little London flat.
What is a girl to do... You like?