Gardens of the Cross Timbers: Truffle Shuffle

What do you think of when you hear “Truffle Shuffle? »A team of chefs and oenologists trained by Michelin who prepare dishes on television? A music video from “The Goonies” showing Chunk exposing his stomach while shaking his body? A card game in which each card is printed with a different chocolate truffle? A food brand that sells Balinese truffle salt, truffle carpaccio (real sliced ​​Italian black truffles) and brown butter truffle honey? A welcome doormat that says “Do you have to make the truffle mixture first?” “

Nope. The real Truffle Shuffle happened outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma on November 7 on a clear and windy day. Oklahoma State University was visible in the distance. Fields and trees were linked by rural dirt and asphalt roads. Clare Paniccia (completed her PhD in Creative Writing at OSU last year) presented the Truffle Shuffle in the middle of virtually nowhere. One hundred and twenty cyclists gathered along a stretch of gritty red road, many dressed in strange costumes. A few even had small dogs in their backpacks with a dog wearing his own set of glasses. Little Red Riding Hood was riding his bike with his blue-eyed “wolf” huskie running alongside him.

The reason for the bike race was… no real reason. It was a gathering of the cycling community of cyclists, families and dogs for a fun hour-long race. The course was essentially a gravel course with demanding hills. At any time, a rider may be called out to pass the remainder of the race on the sidelines. Hydration came in the form of red Solo cups filled with beer handed out by volunteers as the runners passed. The race was watched by Clare in white angel wings and her assistant in shiny black togs with devil horns on her head. When Riding Hood started racing, his huskie led the way. Towards the end, Red was going slowly and the Huskie slower.

At the end of the eventful race, a sort of award ceremony was held for the best costume and the best remaining runners. People had already lined up for plates of huge BBQ ribs, pork, turkey, grilled Mexican street corn, black beans and krispie rice bars made by This Land BBQ. Groups sat in chairs, on the grass, and along the road to chat and eat. It was a cool time. Did you miss the Truffle Shuffle? The next scheduled gravel turn is February 13, 2022.

The leaves put on a great show this year, depending on where you were. Orange carotenoids, red and purple anthocyanins, and yellow xanthophylls, the four primary colors of a leaf, danced through the trees. Chlorophylls usually mask hidden pigments until the amount of daylight decreases to the point that trees know it’s time to shut down for the winter. We see green because chlorophyll makes best use of the wavelengths of red and blue light, but little green is absorbed and the rest is reflected. As the chlorophylls break down, we are treated to rainbows of fall trees.

In far eastern Oklahoma, the deep drought has lasted too long and the rains last month did not save fall’s color. The trees have turned from dry green to brown, with some yellows and reds. Along the 54 mile Talimena National Scenic Byway hike, the colors were the best the second week of November. A little late this year due to the warmer weather. Sweet Gums from Kiamichi Mountain added their red, orange, yellow and purple charms. If you want a tree with colorful fall leaves, chewing gum is your tree, but if it’s dry, most of the leaves will turn bright yellow.

In northeast and central Oklahoma, the colors began to surface last week. The sumacs sported their bright red leaves. Even the oak leaves twinkled when the sun hit from certain angles. Identify trees at this time of year by noting the color of their changing leaves. The hickory leaves are bronze. The bald cypress leaves turn coppery bronze. Ash, birch, poplar, mulberry, and elm all have different yellow intensities. The old Gingko leaves turn golden yellow, then boom, all fall at the same time. The red maple leaves are, well, scarlet red. Sugar maples can be orange-red. Then there is the Caddo Sugar Maple.

Fall sumac.
Truffle Shuffle 2021.

Caddo sugar maple (Acer saccharum) ‘Caddo’ has isolated itself in a canyon in western Oklahoma. No sane sugar maple would live there, but the Caddo, unlike other sugar maples normally found in their natural range in the northeastern United States, is able to withstand high temperatures and drought. In the fall, the leaves of the Caddo turn yellow or orange. The occasional surprise tree may have red leaves, which plant growers have capitalized on. Autumn Splendor is a Caddo seed cultivar with leaves that range from yellow to orange to red or a combination of these, ‘John Pair’ is smaller and fits into narrower landscapes, and Flashfire Caddo Sugar Maples are selected seedlings with leaves that turn brilliant red in early fall.

Caddo Sugar Maple likes full sun and well-drained soil. The leathery tree with leathery leaves can tolerate even alkaline soils. The Caddo retains its leaves all winter, which is why some plant it as a windbreak. This maple was named the “Oklahoma Proven” tree in 2010, proving that it can survive Oklahoma’s climate!

The leaves of native persimmon directly turn bright yellow with an orange-red tint. The noxious Bradford pear, which in my house continuously sheds its leaves for months, has dazzling orange, red and dark purple leaves. Too bad the Bradford pears that recently bloomed at Shawnee Mall will miss their fall finale. Sycamore leaves turn yellow and quickly change to a crisp brown. Ditto for poplars. Willow is one of the first trees to defoliate (light green) and one of the last to lose leaves (again light green turning yellow).

This week, and every week, give thanks. Gratitude uplifts the spirit and increases happiness.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Becky Emerson Carlberg, Oklahoma State Graduate (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer, and certified master gardener and naturalist from Oklahoma. Contact her at [email protected]

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