Our neighborhood is loaded with black walnut trees, so the squirrels find plenty of goodies. And the combination of black walnuts and squirrels causes one of my favorite fall phenomena. I don't know if you've ever tried to open a black walnut, but they are encased in a wonderful-smelling green husk that takes a great deal of scraping to reveal the shell and the exceptionally flavorful nutmeat inside. (I learned this the hard way at a time when I was fiendishly poor and decided to add roadside walnuts to my menu. Best banana bread EVER.) The green husk contains a compound that stains everything a deep dark brown, close to black, a stain so powerful it was used as an ink base and hair dye in Colonial times.
To remove the husk, the squirrels use their amazing teeth, gnawing and scraping at each walnut for five minutes or so. Their paws and mouths become stained dark brown in the process. I wish I had a picture to share the cuteness. It's like squirrel lipstick. It's beyond cute. It's squeee-dorable.
It's easily my favorite fall treat, better than pumpkin pie, better than apple sauce. Nothing says "autumn in Portland" quite so perfectly.
Anybody out there have a fall favorite? Since it's my favorite season, I'm eager to hear!