The Beginnings of a Wild Foodie…

Secret Genealogy IV CoverThere are a lot of books about Native Americans and when I wanted to learn about eating acorns, I thought sure that I could go to the library and find a book that would tell me how to do it. That was not the case. I went through countless books and the only thing I could tell was that they were using water to leach them. I did not know how long the Indians leached them, nor did I know if they kept them cool in the process. I was just a girl who loved nature and wanted to live and sustain myself within the woodlands of Northern California.

So I gathered acorns. By the pillowcase full. I totted them up the hill to my house and with a large river rock, cracked them open. Then, I put the shelled acorns in a white plastic bucket and covered them with water. I had to guess how long to leach them. They don’t leach well if they aren’t ground up and without refrigeration, they get a scum on them. I lived without electricity so I couldn’t keep them cool. I just poured the scum off and rinsed them really well. I ensued a lot of stomach aces though. Not from the scum but from the tannic acid not removed well enough.

CreatespaceAcornsAndEat'emFRONTCOVERWith a lot of trial and error, I finally figured out how to leach acorns. The answer is; long enough to get the tannic acid out. Each oak species has different tannic acid amounts. You have to experiment yourself. My guess is that you will need to leach them anywhere from one week to a month. The tan oak acorns I used in Mendocino County, California required only one week’s leaching. But the acorns I gather in the Sierra Foothills require three times as much leaching.

Don’t be discouraged. They’re worth the wait. Acorn dip with blue corn chips… the thought of it makes my mouth water. That’s probably the little bit of tannic acid that is retained that gives the acorns and any dishes you make with them, their distinctive flavor.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns, http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973 and Secret Genealogy IV – Native Americans Hidden in Our Family Trees. http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-IV-Native-Americans/dp/1500756105

Food & Cooking… Which Acorns Taste the Best?

CreatespaceAcornsAndEat'emFRONTCOVERProbably one of the most frequent questions I get asked about eating acorns is, “Which acorns taste the best?” Now mind you, almost all acorns (without leaching) are bitter-tasting unpalatable little things. I recommend against putting them in your mouth. But leached acorns, that’s a different story. What I mean by leaching is; grinding and rinsing in water. But the deal with acorns is, you have to rinse them in water for a long time. The best way to do that is to grind them in the blender (with water) and then keep them in the refrigerator in the water for however long it takes to get the bitter tannic acid out. I have not tried acorns from all over the world. However, I have tried them from all over California and there are some bitter and not so bitter acorns. The leaching time ranges from one to four weeks. Because they are acidic and you are rinsing them, they won’t go bad in the refrigerator during the leaching process. The best tasting acorns I’ve ever had are the Tanoak acorns that grow along California’s coastal ranges and a little bit inland. I found a week was plenty of time to remove the tannic acid.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

Engaging Children in Nature During the Dark, Cold Days of Winter

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During the darkness of winter, it’s hard to think of ways to engage children. Especially in customs that promote a love of nature. What can you do? Do you have access to an oak tree? If so, you may be lucky enough to bag a few acorns and return home to leach them and bake cookies a few weeks from now. But if the acorns are gone, why not adopt a local oak tree and keep an eye on it? Through the seasons, the oak changes. Right now, its roots are being saturated by rain and/or snow, but in California, sometimes as early as February, the branches start to leaf out and later in the season, start producing pollen. In the summer, you’ll see little green acorns that turn to a beautiful brown in the fall and drop to the ground. After they drop, the forest animals come along. If your adopted oak is in a city park, those forest animals will be small; squirrels, mice, birds… but if you live in a rural area, those acorns will attract deer that attract mountain lions. They will attract large black crows, vultures and woodpeckers. They will attract coyotes, fox, ringtail and all matter of wildlife, including field rats. When you get home from surveying your adopted oak, make sure you point out any oak furniture. Teaching our children the value of the “great oak that was once just a little nut that held its ground,” will prepare your child for the hard task he or she has ahead… stewardship of the earth.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

The California Drought… the Winners and the Losers

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Let me start with the losers, that’s easy. Anything that sucks water. The winners are the little things… lady bugs, lizards, aphids… birds. These tiny creatures are at the bottom of the biotic pyramid but just as important as creatures at the top. Without lady bugs we’d have too many smaller bugs eating our produce. Same with lizards, they eat insects. And birds, wow. Some baby birds eat fourteen feet of worms in a day. Oh wait… we like worms, they build beautiful soil. But then imagine a world without worm predators, they’d be everywhere and they’d probably grow really large but worms like moisture so I’ll not worry about that… yet. I’ll just sit back and enjoy the proliferation of birds and honey bees that are sucking the nectar out of an abundance of wildflowers the drought has brought on in my neck of the woods. It’s dry out west, yes, and it’s not near as pretty a spring as usual. And in Lake County, some of the oak trees are suffering. That’s bad news. But it is what it is. When you need some good news, look deeper into nature…for the little things. There are always winners. Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns available as a FREE download from Ocean-Hose. Find it here: http://www.pacificsites.com/~oceanhose/

Using Acorns to Teach Your Kids About Ecology

The earlier you teach your children to enjoy nature, the more likely they are to embrace and understand it. That is what I believe. One of the fun things about nature is that it is free, or should be. Take the time for nature walks with your children and make it clear to them how they fit into the ecosystem. Acorns are an excellent way to show kids how everything connects. The sun brings life to the oak tree and the rain brings water. The oak tree grows big enough to provide shade for animals and the acorns provide food. The large animals eat the acorns and the smaller animals eat the crumbs. The birds swoop in for crumbs too while larger birds, like woodpeckers, take the whole acorn and stuff it in the holes they’ve drilled into trees. Even worms get in on the act. Little tiny worms invade the acorn and when they do, birds swoop in again and eat the worms. The droppings left by the birds and animals nourish the tree. The rains return and the ecological cycle repeats. It’s a circle that goes round and round.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

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The Environment… When is it Okay to Eat Acorns?

When I began gathering and preparing acorns for food, I lived in the Pacific Northwest in a vast forest of tanoak trees. Most years, acorns were so thick on the ground; they sprouted in the spring and created a thick undergrowth of baby oaks. Now I live in the Sierra Foothills and in some areas, there are barely enough acorns to sustain wildlife that depend on them. In that instance, I leave the acorns right where they are. There is no way I want to go to bed at night thinking I have robbed the squirrels of their winter food stash. Where do I feel comfortable collecting acorns? In parks and yards where the acorns are raked up and put into the trash. I understand why people do that but it pains me that they do. Yes, acorns in the yard can be a real mess. Next year, if acorns are abundant, you might mention it to your local elementary school teacher or the local cub scouts. Perhaps they would like to bag some of them up for their history studies or nature survival course. And don’t forget taking some into the house for yourself. They turn cakes and cookies into delicacies. Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

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Gathering Acorns is Great Fun for Kids… Next Time Bake Acorn Cookies!

Kids love to gather acorns. I know because I have heard close to a hundred of these acorn stories. “When I was six,” people always tell me. These are adults, reliving their experience gathering acorns, probably when they were studying the Native American history of their area. I have yet to hear one of these stories without a smile on the teller’s face. Fond memories. What their schoolteachers did not know was that with a little more effort, the children could process the acorns and make cookies, bringing even bigger smiles. Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

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Nature’s Health… Are Acorns Medicinal?

I believe that acorns are medicinal and I’ll tell you why. Besides containing a little protein and many carbohydrates, some acorns hold as much as 13.55 percent fat and 8.60 percent fiber. Both necessary for an efficient body. In addition, acorns make good medicine because they contain significant quantities of calcium and magnesium. These two nutrients work together. Calcium is essential for strong bones and calm nerves and is lost from our bodies when magnesium is deficient. Also found significantly in acorns, is potassium, a nutrient vital to our well-being, a loss of which to diabetics is extremely dangerous. Sulfur is another element found significantly in acorns. It is such an important amino acid; the high sulfur content in eggs has given eggnog its reputation as good medicine for combatting sickness. If you have not tried eating acorns, I suggest you do. It’s good medicine. Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

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COOKING With Acorns… Are Acorns Safe To Eat?

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I have asked this question myself, in the early days when I first wanted to eat wild foods. Are acorns safe to eat? The answer is yes. Acorns sustained Native Americans for thousands of years. Cultures throughout the world, living in temperate climates where oaks grow, also ate acorns. In Spain, they made spirits from acorns. In England, the peasants ate them. Pagan history shows a grand reverence for the oak and the acorn. Naturalist John Muir recorded his travels and left us with his belief that the acorn was “strengthening.” My biggest surprise is that the “civilized” world has overlooked them for so long. Sometimes I celebrate holidays with a bowl of acorn dip, made from the acorns of California Valley Oaks. It’s delicious and the next time I go to the store, I’m picking up the ingredients to make more. Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

Cooking With Acorns… Should I Make Flour First?

Acorn flour is one of the first things people think of when imagining they are cooking with acorns. Those who make and have dried acorn flour on hand, truly appreciate it but dried acorn flour is not my favorite method. My acorns are always wet. I run my shelled acorns through a blender with water and then leach them. After they are thoroughly leached I cook them in water, for just a few minutes. I let it cool then I freeze it. I suppose one could say that this is flour but it will remind you of cooked cornmeal or cream of wheat cereal. Once thawed and the water is squeezed out, you can make just about anything with it and the nice thing about it is, it’s already cooked. Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

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