Nothing brings out my inner hoarder like Fall.
And so it was with complete squirrely satisfaction that I came home from our brief visit up north with bags and baskets and pockets full of Northern California goodies.
I am ecstatic this year to finally be doing that acorn thing. Partly a result of good timing, with the first nuts beginning their roof kapinging and mostly because I found this fabulous on-line guide. With simple identification, troubleshooting (look out for those little holes!) and how-to tips gleaned from years of the writer’s experience, acorn gathering and leaching suddenly feels like a no-brainer. Why haven’t we done this sooner?
Because I live in a city with no oak trees, that’s why.
However, now that I am in full squirrel mode, I am planning several gathering trips throughout the fall. But lest I count ye ol’ chickens before they hatch, here is our humble beginning.
I had the perfect assistant all the way through.
When we first started gathering, I actually thought we were S.O.L. Most of the acorns did not have their “hats” on, and also had teeny tiny pin holes…a tell tale sign that they had a little worm that eats its way out from the inside. So I just let Fern gather everyone she could find.
She was disappointed that we weren’t going to process them, so I cut into one with a hole to show her why…
…only to discover that, yes, the worms can ruin a bit of the acorn…but most of it will be ok! Just cut the ookey bit off and you’re good to go! I’m so glad we figured this out right away. What a total waste if we had tossed aside every one with a hole.
We processed them the day after we returned to the city. Using a sharp japanese knife, I cut them in half and Fern peeled them. We had a little over a cup when we were done.
Acorns have an inner “skin” that is good to get off if you can. I scraped most of it off by hand. You can also soak them whole for a bit, which will loosen it. In this photo, the brown that you see is oxidization, which happens quite quickly.
Now get this…all leaching processes I had heard about involved vast quantities of running water and/or time spent pouring said water over the acorns to get out the tannins. But thanks to my trusty new friend, Suellen Ocean, I now know the busy mama secret for acorn prep.
Put acorns in a blender with 3 cups water to one cup acorn meat. Grind into a puree. Pour into a mason jar. The meal will settle and the water will leach out the tannins. Pour the water off and add fresh every day until the water is clear.
This was after only a few hours in the fridge. The water turns brown from tannins, of which acorns have a LOT and which is why they are indigestible unless ground and leached.
The instruction manual has some fun recipes too (Acorn Enchiladas will be our first taste test!). She also explains how to dry the soaked ‘corns into flour, which will be great after a bigger harvest. Ocean suggests peeling the acorns right away, and then freezing until you are ready to do the leaching process. Another brilliant idea, I think.
One of the biggest reasons I am excited is this…soy and protein dilemma as a vegetarian? Solved! Acorns are a complete source. Peace out, tofu.
This weekend was also an opportunity to gather the last of the Manzanita berries.
Manzanita in Spanish means “Little Apple”, and the similarity is not only in shape and size. The berry is somewhat dry and powdery, with large seeds inside and the flavor is very appley dappley.
I had heard about making Manzanita “sugar” so with the help of my trusty assistant, we collected enough pocketfuls to do so.
Put in a fine mesh strainer, and sift.
The berries seem to be one part berry and twelve parts seed.
When you are done, you will have your very own sugar mountain.
The consistency is very dry and powdery, so not very yummy for eating in big spoonfulls. But I’ve sprinkled it on my peanut butter toast, which was lovely and I think it would be great baked into muffins.
But wait! There’s more!
Pearly Everlasting flowers. I have written about everlasting before, but this is my favorite variety of Rabbit Tobacco.
Chumash healer, Cecilia Garcia, says this about California Everlasting.
California Everlasting is a sweet tobacco, used to change attitudes. I put it over people’s eyes, add it to tobacco and have people smoke it, add it to water and soak people’s feet in it, or use it as a poultice with white sage to pull out bad attitudes that have been held for a long time.
My romantic plastic foraging bag. (Also, Sadie you can see the contents of your wondrous package of love in the background. You are at the top of my email list, girlfriend.)
The leaves and flowers are also a good treatment for colds. Make an infusion of a handful of the flowers by putting them in a jar and pouring just-boiled water over them. For a medicinal brew, let steep at least an hour.
Once again, Fern was my apprentice and mastered the art of pulling the dried flowers off the twigs. She was in love with the smell and kept requesting cups of tea that she would grace with one sip and then dump.
I highly recommend making a non-medicinal infusion by letting the flowers steep for just 15 minutes, because the tea as a beverage is magnificent.
It tastes like a sunny morning kitchen where someone is making pancakes.
This is not just poetic prose. It’s truth!
If you live in the Bay Area, you may have seen The Rainbow on Wednesday, and if you didn’t see it, you certainly heard about it.
I didn’t see it myself, but my clients were raving about it all afternoon. Strangers were talking to each other on the street, cafes were pouring outside to catch a glimpse. It reminds me of the song Fern recently made up, that she tends to sing whenever Jeff or I get tense,
Let’s think about the Raaaaainbow, the Raaaainbow.
Let’s think about the Raaaainbow, the Rainbow.
If you want to change your mind,
You have to open the window.
Let’s think about the Raaaaaaiiiinnnnnnbooow.
So friends, that’s your (and my) meditation for the weekend. Think about the rainbow. I will also be thinking about, and feeling, your words of comfort and cheer regarding my last post. Thank you all, sweet hearts.
P.S. A shout out to my cousin Kristen who gets credit for answering my Caterpillar in Winter questions. She has a lot of knowledge up her sleeves from her years of teaching elementary school, and apparently I need to enroll myself in Kindergarten, since her students have a better grasp on this stuff than I do. Also, according to her theory, Cryogenics was totally an option for Michael Jackson.