Wild Foods

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  • Tue, Oct 13, 2009 - 02:45am

    #1

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    Wild Foods

I’ve been gathering acorns the past week or two. I’m new to this and got all my info from a link that was posted on this site a week or two ago (in the daily digest?):,

http://www.prodigalgardens.info/september%20weblog.htm#Acorns

And for more details:

http://www.prodigalgardens.info/processing%20acorns%20step%20by%20step.htm

Anyway, here’s how it’s worked so far for me. Here in Upstate New York, there are 3 species of the sweeter, easier to process, white oak group: the white oak, the swamp white oak and the chestnut oak. Because they have fewer tannins, it’s much easier to leach out the bitter flavor. For the same reason, they don’t store very well until they are thoroughly dried – so I hear. They also begin to sprout soon after they fall and from what I read, sprouting acorns that have not turned green are fine to eat (they are more or less nutritious depending on who you believe), but they don’t store as well. Last week, about October 7 or 8, I gathered about 8-10 pounds of swamp white oak acorns from under a big tree near work. The closely mown lawn made it easy – only 30 minutes for about 1500 acorns. Since only oaks growing in the open produce heavy crops and then only about every 3 years, and since red oaks are much more common than whites around here, finding a good tree is not always easy.

I took them home an dried them in a 170 degree oven. I got carried a way and dried them for about 6 hours. Even after this much time, my glasses still fogged when I peaked in the oven. The nuts got quite darkly colored, but did not tasted at all burned.

Next, I put them in a thick bottomed, wide 5 quart pot. I used what I think is a blacksmith’s hammer (at least that’s what the label on the handle said). It was basically a 5 inch long, by 1.5 by 1.5 inch piece of steel on a 14 inch hickory handle. I put about 2 inches of acorns in the pot and held the handle nearly vertical with the top pointing slightly toward the outside of the pot and worked my way around the edges (and the middle), lifting the hammer up a few inches and smashing the nuts that were still relatively intact. I did this until about half of the nut meats were out of the shell and the rest of the shells were well cracked. I then separated the shells from the nuts by hand. It took perhaps an hour to do the whole 10 pounds. I didn’t try winnowing as suggest in the links above, although I did try using water, which worked well until the little pieces of shell remained stuck to the meat.

Then I tried two methods of leaching out the tannins. I boiled one batch in 6 changes of water -and – there was still some bitterness to the nuts. Certainly not overpowering, but there. I bundled the rest in a clean cloth and soaked it for 2 days in the spring that forms from the overflow of my well. The result – delicious acorns with no bitterness – and a cool red salamander with lots of tiny black spots hiding under the cloth when I retrieved it! If you don’t have an appropriate water source, you could do it in jars in your fridge. You would have to change the water though, and it might take longer. Perhaps a bucket with a little hole in the bottom and a lead-free garden hose trickling into it. I’m now soaking the boiled acorns in the spring to see if the last of the bitterness is removed. Before leaching, I ground the acorns to sunflower to pea size pieces in my food processor. It might have sped up the leaching, but it’s slowing the drying process.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten.

I’m now drying the spring leached batch – a bit of time in a low oven again, a ceiling fan, sun, whatever. A dehydrator would probably be more effective, but I don’t have one. After that, I’ll work on storing, grinding to flour and cooking. I also plan to try red oak acorns which seem to be available more consistently and in much more abundance.

I’ll finish with a link to a nursery that sells dozens of varieties of wild and more carefully bred oaks including some that produce good crops of large, sweet acorns every year – and on young trees only a few years after planting! I plan to plant a few next year.

http://oikostreecrops.com/store/prodtype.asp?cookiecheck=yes&PT_ID=6&strPageHistory=cat

Enjoy!

I’d love to hear other wild food experiences – especially the type that provide serious calories, protein and/or fat. That basically limits us to nuts, acorns, roots, and hunting.

Steve

  • Tue, Oct 13, 2009 - 03:03am

    #2
    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Re: Wild Foods

I ate some cactus once and got real sick, shoulda got all those hairs off.

But in serious answer to your question, Maple seeds sauteed in garlic butter are great. Pick them when they are very young little helicopters and pluck the stems off.

Stinging nettles make a great tea. Wear gloves.

  • Tue, Oct 13, 2009 - 04:14am

    #3
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    Re: Wild Foods

[quote=Tycer]

I ate some cactus once and got real sick, shoulda got all those hairs off.

[/quote]

Tee hee . . .

  • Tue, Oct 13, 2009 - 04:22am

    #4
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    Re: Wild Foods

Thank you, Steve!

What a great idea for a thread, and what a great initial post!  I have dozens of oaks on my property, and I have often toyed with the idea of leaching them for food . . .

If you follow my posts, you know that I am in unabashed forager . . . Took a hike through Morton Arboretum, near Chicago, yesterday, and it was all I could do to resist scooping up all of the wild black walnuts . . . We’ve put up about 250 jars (both pints and quarts) from fruit that we’ve gathered in the wild or from abandoned and neglected trees . . . Free for the taking, and the labor . . . and organic, to boot!

 

  • Wed, Oct 14, 2009 - 12:28am

    #5
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    Re: Wild Foods

Let me know how the bread is from your flour. I went through that process once several years ago and found the flour to  be barely acceptable.. survival food, really.

I like the available spring, though. It took forever and used a lot of energy to get out the tannic acid by boiling.

 

SG

  • Wed, Oct 14, 2009 - 02:28am

    #6
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    Re: Wild Foods

[quote=capesurvivor]

Let me know how the bread is from your flour. I went through that process once several years ago and found the flour to  be barely acceptable.. survival food, really.

I like the available spring, though. It took forever and used a lot of energy to get out the tannic acid by boiling.

 

SG

[/quote]

From what I’ve read on the web, the general opinion is “use it like cornmeal”. There seem to be several different grinding options. One writer gives it a final grind in a coffee grinder just before mixing and baking. I’ll let you know how mine turns out. I’m going to follow one of the recipes in the links from my first post.

The boiled batch is soaking in the spring now. Today, I got most of the remaining acorns under the same tree. I filled a 9 quart cooler nearly to the top. It’s interesting that those acorns haven’t started to sprout. But the white oak acorns (not swamp white oak) from my front yard are all sprouting. Of course, my front yard is shadier and nowhere near “closely mowed”, so those acorns are probably staying nice and moist. Those acorns are drying in the oven now.

Then it’s on to red oaks.

  • Mon, Nov 09, 2009 - 03:26pm

    #7
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    cooking with acorns – my experience

Since I’ve processed my swamp white oak acorns, I’ve prepared them in two ways:

  1. putting unground pieces from sesame seed size to an entire 1/2 from a small acorn in my oatmeal.  I cook it directly in the bowl in the microwave.  I heat the oatmeal to boiling, cover the bowl with a plate, wrap in towels and let sit for 15 minutes.  Acorn pieces are tender and nutty – delicious.
  2. I ground the acorns in a small electric coffee grinder.  It took about 2 minutes to make 1/2 cup of relatively fine flour with a couple of chunks left.  I then used in a standard pancake recipe substituting acorn flour for 40% of the whole wheat flour.  My opinion – delicious, nutty and rich.  My wife (not a wild foods enthusiast) – delicious!  ever so slightly more crumbly than regular pancakes.  7 year old daughter – OK.  I’d eat it if I had to.  I’m sure I’d get used to it.  4 year old daughter – gobbled them up just like regular pancakes.

I also tried soaking the acorns without grinding them smaller first.  It took 4 days instead of 2 and they still had a hint of bitterness.  Grinding them down to sesame seed to pea size seems to be a valuable step.

  • Mon, Nov 09, 2009 - 04:27pm

    #8
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    Re: cooking with acorns – my experience

Interesting, thanks for info, I probably did not grind fine enuf during my old experiment. good to know they really are not just edible but palatable.

 

SG

  • Mon, Nov 09, 2009 - 11:55pm

    #9
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    Re: Wild Foods

I found a book call Identifying and harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants , at an auction . It  is 300 pages of pictures , information , and recipes.  It tells the nutrition in each . says that acorns tannin is astringent,antiseptic and antiviral, with both anti-tumor and anticarcinogenic activity.   Well the list is long for all its beneficial uses.

   A person could spend a long time in this book and well what a good thing to get out and scrounging in the woods .

  • Sat, Nov 14, 2009 - 12:38am

    #10
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    Re: Wild Foods

 I am trying to slide this in where no one looks and at a time of day that gets busy .      This is in no way meant  to bash Dr.s’  they only know what they have been taught    .   A few years ago  while in his 40’s my husband noticed visual changes .  After CBC  test he was put on blood pressure pills and  type 2 diabetes med .   Over a few years his doses were increased  to the point where his potassium drop and he was having a racing pulse  .    I said are you now going to listen to me ?   We watched what he was eating and what caused the reactions .   Recently we found a natural Dr. that had my husbands cells tested . It confirmed what we were discovering  plus some I did not think about .   Almost all the foods he reacted to are not native to the area . Bananas, Potatoes , peanuts, tomatoes  etc.

 It said to increase his amount of whey , which I had done . But the surprising thing is that he need more Curcumin. I looked it up and that is curry , not something native to our area in the Mid West that I am aware of .  Do any of you know of anything local that has these properties? The other food he needed more of was apples . Well that one is easy .    Let your food be your medicine .. well you know where that one comes from . I do not want this buried in CT but will look for it there .

 BTW  he is off all meds and testing great . It was not an overnight discovery or improvement . 3 years actually  . But Such a blessing and amazement to the Dr.  

 

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