Wild in Shasta County: Foraging Fridays

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.ย 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.ย 

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.

That’s it!

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.

Sort out the twigs and put the berries in a grinder or food processor.


It takes less than a minute.

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!

No. No, no, no, nonononononooooo. Not these. These are Poison Oak berries. Run away.


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!

Aaaahhhhh. I’m a happy little squirrel.

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.

P.P.S. Have you entered this give-away yet? Nicole of Flaming Hag Folkware is giving away some of her hand-made jewelry. And when I say hand-made, I mean by the hands of a fashion sorceress.


5 thoughts on “Wild in Shasta County: Foraging Fridays

  1. Wow, you have gone squirrely! We’re getting ready to process black walnuts soon. Yeah, there goes my manicure (as if). Oh and evening primrose, too. Thanks for the info on leaching the acorns. We haven’t tried it yet because we thought it was so laborious. That sounds much easier. And thanks for the link to the awesome Flaming Hag giveaway! Bright blessings.

  2. Holy shitballs it’s great to see you gals! The wind is so fierce right now it’s frightening to be outside…both good and bad scary. The rain is horizontal and it’s coming in through a gap in the skylight (which I was assured had been fixed). ANYHOW. Acorns, we have them trees in our kindy yard and this year my kitchen drawers and under couches and all types of hidey holes were filled with acorns by Mia. And i didn’t know what to do with them. it makes me sad now to realise that next Acorn season Mia won’t be at kindy anymore. I wonder if they’ll let me come and take some anyways… Your little helper is growing up, there’s knowledge in those blue eyes of hers. Your knowledge I think, along with some 3 year old common sense-ical. I’m loving that I get to see her grow up through your blog. You’re doing great Mary. So great with her. xoxo

  3. SUCH an adorable assistant you have! She’s getting an awesome foraging education from you at such a young age, lucky girl.

    This post took me back to the wild edibles workshop that Milla and I took at the Symposium. Acorns and Manzanita berries were hot topics! The class made a batch of “manzanita berry cider” by using a mortar and pestle to break up the berries and release the powder. The berry mash was then added to a big mason jar and filled with water. Shake or stir to dissolve the powder then just strain out the remaining seeds and skins (in the workshop the straining was done through a pair of crisscrossed fir boughs, of course ๐Ÿ™‚ The “cider” was yummy with a mild sweetness to it. Apparently the manzanita berry powder is chalk full of vitamin C too, so it’s kind of like a natural version of those Emergen-C packet drinks!

    Have you ever roasted bay nuts? Another hot topic of the workshop.

    The jar of everlasting flowers is so pretty and I love the idea that you could use them to suck out a bad attitude! That’s rad.

    The sunset was pink and amazing here too the night of the rainbow. Clover and I went outside to check it out and she actually gasped with delight at the thick pink cotton candy clouds. I’ll have to teach her Fern’s rainbow song ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. wow! miss fern really looks grown up in these pictures! look at all the bounty you gathered! nice work! EXCLAMATION POINTS AFTER EVERY SENTENCE@!!! i am behind on posting so i will say i loved your last few posts and your hair is looking fierce. i may even bring a picture of you in when i get my bangs trimmed, i love yours so much. STALKER! and somehow i missed the rainbow memo. now i must google.

  5. Wow you are a brave woman to make acorn meal! I can’t wait to hear how the enchiladas come out. We have about a million acorns right here in our own yard, if only I had your kind of gumption we could be living off the land ๐Ÿ˜‰ I love the manzanita berries for sugar idea too. You are the most inspiring lady Mary Good. I’m seriously impressed. Fern is such a lucky and well rounded little girl to grow up with you as mama.

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