Thursday, October 29, 2009

California Pine Nuts... eldest daughter and I parked at a car wash...and walked a short distance up a trail in a forested area of the city. On our way we saw Toyon berries...Black Sage...Black Alder...and a host of other wild edibles...but that wasn't what we were stopping for...we wanted some pine nuts.

If you didn't know...

Pine nuts are high in nutrition. They are not cheap to purchase at the free is great! While they are well known for their inclusion in is also used in many other recipes (including salads, sauces, fish garnishment, puddings,cookies, cakes).

While all pine nuts are edible...not all pines have nuts worth collecting. In California...if you are wanting to harvest pine are looking for the following trees....
  • P. torreyana ("Torrey Pine") - Found in a very small area in SW California
  • P. coulteri ("Coulter Pine") Mostly Southern CA...a little of Central CA.
  • P. sabiniana ("Digger or Gray Pine") Across most of California
  • P. lambertiana ("Sugar Pine") - Found in California and S Oregon.
  • P. monophylla ("Single-leaf Pinyon Pine") E & Central California, Nevada, W Utah & Baja California Norte.
  • P. quadrifolia ("Parry Pinyon Pine") Far S California & Baja California Norte (mixed with above).
Up the road in Tahoe one can find Pinus Lambertiana or "Sugar Pine". As a result of their presence there...many Tahoe sites are named "Sugar Pine" Point..."Sugar Pine" restaurant..."Sugar" Bowl...etc... They hold a couple of records in that they are the worlds largest pines...with the longest pine cones! The pine cones are so remarkable that people sometimes sell undamaged specimens at fairs for top dollar. While these do have edible nuts...they aren't widely the tree is just too darned tall to take down the cones! One has to be content with what is leftover when they fall from the tree.

In my immediate region...the one that is Pinus Sabiniana...or "Gray Pine". This same tree is also known as "Digger Pine" (which may be viewed as politically incorrect)..."Ghost Pine"(because of how the gray green needles look ghostly)...or "Foothill Pine" because that is generally where it grows. Like three good friends hanging will often find the Gray Pine with it's buddies "Blue Oak" (Quercus Douglasii) and "California Buckeye" (Aesculus Californica). Thankfully...all three of these friends have use as food for humans (when prepared properly).

A few identification points for the Gray Pine...

1. The needles are in fascicles (bundles) of 3...are droopy...and are 8-10 inches long.
2. The color of the needles is a pale gray/green.
3. They have a "pole" stage when they are young...but when they get older they branch out in forks and grow as tall as 160 feet! From a distance they are quite noticeable with their spindly dark trunks and sparce gray/green needles. See the photo above.
5. The cones are apple to pineapple in size and often have a lot of sap on them.

If you desire to learn which conifers are which in CA...HANDS DOWN the best book to get is "Conifers of California" (apt title!). The paintings are beautiful...the photos are crisp and clear...and the descriptions are thorough.

Other than for pine nuts...the pinus genus has many other uses. Here is a video with some tips on how to use pine trees and how to harvest pine nuts. One thing that I would add to what he said with regards to to not assume that because a cone has opened that all of the nuts have been released never to be found. I have found many opened cones on the ground still filled with nuts! In fact...we probably picked up $100 worth of pine nuts just off of pine cones we found on the ground in opened cones! Sometimes the pine cones would leave a nice...neat little pile of their nuts right where the cone had initially struck the ground. We also found many that had fallen from the tree...took to the wind...and were littered all over the ground. They can easily be found and eaten for free...if one doesn't mind a little bit of sap on one's hands...and taking a bit of effort to crack their little shells to expose the white nutmeat.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Free Escargot!!

Just the thought of having a snails chewy little meat sliding down ones tongue sounds like the makings of one of those reality shows where people are dared to do unreasonably gross things for the viewers morbid pleasure.

It is an interesting exercise in self understanding to kind of step back out of ones point of reference and ask "Why do I feel that way?" "Why is it gross?" "This food is enjoyed in other cultures...why not mine?" Food prejudices that are developed in a culture may or may not be based on good reasoning. Silly superstitions...prejudices based upon a food being what "poor" people eat...or some such reason could be keeping you from enjoying what could be your favorite food!

American's generally have a taste aversion to eating snails and yet the common garden snail that is to found in our yards is closer on the family tree to the clams...mussels...oysters...and squid that many eat at their fine restaurants...than they would want to hear about. I wonder if anyone would notice if that clam dip at the party was in fact a snail dip?

That common garden snail that we are fighting to keep from eating our garden greens is in fact the same snail that is hunted for eating in France!! It is called the European Brown or "Helix Aspersa"

While I don't expect that you are going to be thrilled about the prospect...and give up hamburgers in favor of snailburgers. I think it is worthwhile to know that in hard times...or true survival situation...there is meat available that...

You don't have to shoot!
You don't have to fish for...
It won't outrun you...
It won't bite or scratch you...
It won't make awful sounds...
You don't have to clean out bloody guts...

Here is an article about a man in San Franciso who eats snails that will teach you a bit about preparation and give some other useful information. While some people do eat raw snails...know that you could run the risk of getting sick if the snail recently ate snail bait...or if it is carrying parasites. The simple preparation described in that article will ensure that they are safe.

If the thought of eating snail grosses you out...or you say "My family would never eat it". My reply is..."Then you don't know how hungry you could get...and how desperate!" Your family might find it more palatable...first of all...if you don't tell them what it is!!...but second of all if you have it in the context of a dish like some food storage pasta! Snail Rigatoni...YUM!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Eat Mud...

A child sits in a pile of mud...making "Mud Pies". Perhaps we might tell the child "They are only for make believe!"...hoping that they don't succumb to the temptation of sampling their culinary creation. Interestingly enough...there are some circumstances under which eating mud...or "geophagy"may make sense. The main circumstance...of course...will most likely be that you are starving!! ...but there are other reasons too.

In Haiti not too long ago "mud cookies" became the common fare of people unable to afford any other food. The reporter who tried the Haitian cookies didn't like it...but there are others who love the taste of clay.

Some American Indian tribes added clay to their acorn meal to bind the tannins so they could be consumed.

In the Southern United States back in the 1940's...eating dirt was a common practice that came over from Africa.

Some people eat it because they believe it has various healing as a cleanser of one's system. It has been used to detoxify after ingesting poison. It has also been used to relieve nausea.

Pregnant women the world over reportedly can feel compelled to sample the soil...and do. Some surmise that this may be due to a drive to have certain minerals to help with the babies development.

In their "Professional Guide Manual", George L. Herter and Jacques P. Herter wrote about the food value of mud...

"The silt or mud on the bottom of lakes, ponds, and sloughs that have or have had some vegetation in them has a high food value for humans. Such silt or mud contains the accumulated organic food riches of thousands of years both from plants, insects, and in some cases from such things as clams, fish, and crayfish. The best way to eat such silt or mud is to make a soup. It tastes surprisingly good. Laurel leaves, wild grape leaves, juniper berries, wild leeks, or dandelion will add to it's flavor.

If lost in the wilderness, mud soup alone will bring you through in fine shape.

This is a proven scientific fact, not my personal opinion. The world famous scientist Robert Beauchamp, director of the East African Fisheries Research Organization, made a great many scientific tests on the food value of mud and silt from the bottoms of lakes. He found, for example, that the mud from the bottom of famous Lake Victoria in Africa was especially rich in food for humans. He proved the point by feeding himself and his family on the mud and in all cases the individuals gained weight."

How would you have liked to be one of his children!!?

While there may be potential health benefits of mud is not something that I would recommend to people...except in a worst case scenario sort of situation. Most would probably have to be in that sort of situation to consider it anyways! It is reassuring to know that in the absence of plant life to forage...that if it came to could eat mud...and that it could actually make you GAIN weight!!

Still...without a lab to test ALL of what is in the are taking a chance of consuming lead...or chemicals...or something else that is unhealthy or hard to digest. Also...eating foods with lots of grit can work like a sandpaper on your teeth. The CDC also has an article that discusses various health benefits and some sobering risks. This should hopefully dissuade casual mud eating...and make you want to become more informed about any soil you would want to consume.

I'd venture to say that to become a wise would need to become pretty good at recognizing soil types...have a good understanding of the nutritional values of the soils...and a really adventurous foraging spirit! If one get's good at it...perhaps they will make dirt brownies! Of course...a wise geophagist probably won't even practice his craft...and will save his/her knowledge for a time of real need!

Just one more arrow to put into our "worst case scenario food situation" quiver!!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Valuable and Useful Oil...

Walking down the supermarket aisles we see Olive oils...Canola oils...Sunflower oils...and host of other varieties that come in shapely glass bottles with fancy labels that make them look more like an expensive wine than a vegetable oil.  Their neighbors are oils that while they may seem "less fancy" in their durable and yet inexpensive my estimation...they are equally beautiful as the light passes through them.

A lifetime of pushing our shopping carts by a seemingly endless supply of these oils...available at a relatively low price...could make them seem like an expendable commodity.  As if they will always be there for us to purchase and use liberally.  If it is our lot to go through times of scarcity...where oil has gone up in price until the average person cannot purchase it...or circumstances have made it no longer available...we may find as Joni Mitchell sang so wisely..."Don't it always seem to go...that we don't know what we've got till it's gone"!

F. Enzio Busche tells of a time in his life when vegetable oil was very valuable...

"Frequently I am asked, “What were the most valuable items in the days of starvation in Germany?...For what we needed, the food item we relied on most was vegetable oil. With a bottle of vegetable oil, one could acquire nearly every other desirable item. It had such value that with a quart of vegetable oil one could probably trade for three bushels of apples or three hundred pounds of potatoes. Vegetable oil has a high calorie content, is easy to transport, and in cooking can give a tasty flavor to all kinds of food items that one would not normally consider as food—wild flowers, wild plants, and roots from shrubs and trees. For me and my family, a high-quality vegetable oil has the highest priority in our food storage, both in times of daily use and for emergency usage. When vegetable oil is well-packed and stored appropriately, it has a long storage life without the necessity of refrigeration. We found ours to be in very good condition after twenty years of storage, but circumstances may vary in different countries and with different supplies."(F. Enzio Busche, “How Beautiful to Live in These Times and Be Prepared!,” Ensign, Jun 1982, 16)

Uses of Oil

Barter value...nutritional value...ease of transport...and taste is about all we could ask of a food item in a time of scarcity.  As a food...vegetable oil has many uses...  

Wikipedia itemizes the food value this way...

"Many vegetable oils are consumed directly, or used directly as ingredients in food - a role that they share with some animal fats, including butter and ghee. The oils serve a number of purposes in this role:

  • Shortening - to give pastry a crumbly texture .
  • Texture - oils can serve to make other ingredients stick together less.
  • Flavor - while less-flavorful oils command premium prices, oils such as olive oil or almond oil may be chosen specifically for the flavor they impart.
  • Flavor base - oils can also "carry" flavors of other ingredients, since many flavors are present in chemicals that are soluble in oil.

Secondly, oils can be heated, and used to cook other foods. Oils that are suitable for this purpose must have a high flash point. Such oils include the major cooking oils - canolasunflowersafflowerpeanut etc. Some oils, including rice bran oil, are particularly valued in Asian cultures for high temperature cooking, because of their unusually high flash point."

There are also many other non-food uses of vegetable oil that you may not have considered that can make it a valuable item to have around...especially during hard times.  By no means is this a complete list...but here some that I could think of or find...

1.  Lamps
2.  Lotions.  You could even make your own essential oils from herbs and give it a scent.  Many oils are quite healing applied directly to your skin without processing.
4.  Soap 
8.  Religious blessings (olive oil)

The Church's Counsel

Here are a few quotes cut and pasted from church publications...

In light of this information...we should look for ways to be prepared to have oil on hand.

Healthiest Oils

Some oils are more healthy than others.  The health conscious should be wary of using some oils.  There is some conflicting information as to which is best. Researching the food value of coconut oil for example will leave you bewildered as to whom is correct as some say it is the most unhealthy oil...and others say it is the healthiest!!  I encourage you to research the oils and make your own decision.

Storing Oil

Enzio mentioned that his family had success storing vegetable oil for 20+ years that was still good after that time.  If you were to look around for the "experts" to tell you how long you can store an oil will find that it depends on the kind of oil you want to you plan on storing it...and the point of view of the "expert". 

For example...some would say that olive oil has a shelf life of a year or two...others for 3-4 years...while others would say that it can be stored indefinitely!  I'm not really sure who is right you can find some advice on how to extend the shelf life of your oils.

While the information given by experts regarding shelf lives may vary...they all seem to agree that fresh is better tasting...and better for you.  Even a small amount of rancid oil can make your food taste really bad...and even make you quite sick.

Make Your Own Oil

Have you considered that it could be possible to make your own oil?  If you were to have the tools and skill to make your own oil you would have...

1.  the freshest and therefore healthiest oils possible.
2.  the possibility of having oil still available to your family...even after your oil storage is expended by a "sustained emergency".
3.  the ability to make oils out of a variety of plants you may have never considered...that may not be commercially available.
4.  increased self reliance!

Ezra Taft Benson stated...

The storing of any food or supply brings a level of self reliance and peace of mind that will last only as long as the food or supply does!  Having the ability to produce your own food and supplies brings the possessor of such knowledge into the realm of true self reliance.

It reminds me of that old saying "Give a man a fish and feed him for a day...or teach him how to fish and feed him for a lifetime".  I could easily reword it to say "The store gives a man some oil and feeds him till it's gone...or he could learn to make his own oil and feed himself for a lifetime!"

The prophets have long spoken the phrase "Home production and storage".  While just simply storing may be an "easier" path...learning to produce what you need could prove "invaluable".

So How is Vegetable Oil Made?

Five common methods are used to extract oil:

a) Water assisted. Here the finely ground oilseed is either boiled in water and the oil that floats to the surface is skimmed off or ground kernels are mixed with water and squeezed and mixed by hand to release the oil.
b) Manual pressing. Here oilseeds, usually pre-ground, are pressed in manual screw presses. A typical press is shown in diagram 1.
c) Expelling. An expeller consists of a motor driven screw turning in a perforated cage. The screw pushes the material against a small outlet, the "choke". Great pressure is exerted on the oilseed fed through the machine to extract the oil. Expelling is a continuous method unlike the previous two batch systems.
d) Ghanis. A ghani consists of a large pestle and mortar rotated either by animal power or by a motor. Seed is fed slowly into the mortar and the pressure exerted by the pestle breaks the cells and releases the oil. Ghani technology is mainly restricted to the Indian sub-continent.
e) Solvent extraction. Oils from seeds or the cake remaining from expelling is extracted with solvents and the oil is recovered after distilling off the solvent under vacuum.
My own belief is that the second one on the list...letter "b" is the best for preparedness.  I will share more on why later.

Here is a great article on how to process oil seed.  This is one that I will print out to have as a reference.  

Here is yet another on processing oil seed on a small scale.

Which Seeds and Nuts Are Used For Oil?

It really is remarkable how many seeds and nuts can be processed for their valuable oil.  Wikipedia has a wonderful list of various vegetable oils and their uses.  On that list you will find many seeds and nuts that you are probably currently tossing in the trash.  Seeds that if you simply set them aside to dry could be pressing them for their oils.  

You will also see some on the list that can be gathered from wild sources.  I first started to research this when I found out how high the oil content is in thistle seed and how it can be pressed for it's valuable oil.  This would be a great list to print off a hard copy have on hand to remember what seeds you can use and their applications.

Acorns For Cooking Oil

You may already know that I believe that acorns are one of the most underutilized food cropsavailable in America and much of the world for that matter.  There is information out there on how to use the acorns as a meal...but really not a lot of information on how they can be used for their oil.  This could lead one to believe that it must not be a feasible option if "everyone isn't doing it"...and yet the information that is available on acorn oil makes it out to be a great oil!

David A. Bainbridge has done some comprehensive studies regarding acorn usage.  In his short paper available online he writes...

"Acorns can also be used to make acorn oil by boiling, crushing, or pressing. Acorn oil has been used as a cooking oil in Algeria and Morocco (Loudon, 1844; Hedrick, 1919; Smith, 1950). It was used by the Indians of the eastern U.S. for cooking and as a salve for burns and injuries (Michaux, 1810; Smith, 1950). Some varieties contain more than 30 percent oil, equal or greater than the best oil olives ( Wolf, 1945; Ofcarcik et al., 1971). The quality and flavor of the oil is comparable to olive oil (Wolf, 1945; Smith, 1950; Bainbridge, 1985a). Table 4 presents further information on acorn oil."

A study by the American Chemists Society said that acorn oil could "satisfactorily be used for edible purposes".

Isn't that remarkable!  Those little acorns that fill green waste bins to overflowing can be made into an oil that has a "quality and flavor..comparable to olive oil"!!  With the long term storage capacity of is conceivable that a person could store enough acorns to eat as a meal...or to produce whatever oil you would need for the season or more.

Although none of the sources I found indicated if it was necessary to leach the acorns first...I communicated with Green Deane who told me that "You get a better tasting oil if you leach it first".

In hard times...acorns may be a primary source of oil for those who can make it.  It is my intention even the acorns start falling this make it the primary source of oil for my family.

Choosing a Method of Oil Extraction

The best (in my opinion) oil expeller will be one that is easily transportable...does not require electricity in case there is fairly priced...doesn't wear out or require a lot of cleaning...and can expel a wide variety of seeds and nuts.

From my research...the one that fits best into all of these criteria is the Piteba Oil Press.

See the press in action in these videos....

Group Order

The cost of olive oil right now is roughly $10 a liter.

The cost of the Piteba oil expeller is approximately $140 shipped.  Which is an AWESOME price!!  Especially when you compare it with some of the more complicated motorized versions that cost thousands of dollars.

Make 14 liters of oil that you would have purchased and used anyways...and you will have recouped your expense...and the rest is gravy!  If due to crop failure...a drastic devaluation of our currency...breakdown of shipping...war...etc...the price of vegetable oil shoots through the may be able to recoup the cost with just one liter made! 

It is interesting that we could go to the store and easily pick up $140 worth of groceries that disappear quickly from our pantries and think nothing of it.  And here $140 may sound like a lot of money for a tool...and yet this is a means to make an unlimited amount of food!  As I look at it...I am buying the cornucopia of cooking oil...lotion...fuel...medicine...etc...for a small price.

There is a price break if at least 4 are ordered.  The owner told me that the price break comes on shipping when he can send presses together.  Which would make the final price less than $140.  There is a chance that our government will want to tax the items coming in from the Netherlands where they are made.  I have been unable to confirm or deny how much that tax would be or if it even will happen...but don't put it past our government to have ways to gouge imports.  The final cost should be less than the $140.  Plan on paying that amount...but be pleasantly surprised if I can refund you some money!

If you would like to purchase one...please contact me at and let me know how many you would like and your contact info.  I have done many group orders in the past...and my experience has been that a lot of people keep trickling in wanting to order up until the last second.  The last time I did an order like this I expected to order maybe 10 or so cookstoves...and we ended up with an order of 70+ stoves!  This happens as families email families and it takes a while for the word to get around.

Here is how it will work.  I will keep a list of people and their orders...when we have at least 4 people ordering...I will contact you to let you and request that you send me $140.  I will gauge if orders are still coming in and make the order when money has been collected by all interested later than Friday July 31st.  Then I will pay for the group purchase via paypal.  The presses will be mailed to my address...I will tell you when they arrive...and then we will arrange how you will pick it up or perhaps have me mail it to you.  

As a bonus to whomever buys a press....I will invite you to my home this fall...and do a free workshop on how to process acorns for food and we will try our hands at making some acorn oil!  Then we will make some food out of the product we make!  YUM!  

Heck!  Just the class will be worth the cost of the press!

In closing...almost inevitably I am asked after I do a group order...if I will be doing it again.  The answer is "No".  In this case I just plan on having one I don't plan on organizing another order for a group.  If you want an oil may not want to let this chance pass you by.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Foraging Books...

I was reading last night about the saints who first came into the Salt Lake Valley...and how they survived through the harsh seasons while the land was being settled. Saints were eating crows, thistle, bark, roots, and sego lily bulbs...really...most anything that they could get their hands on to make their suffering and intense hunger subside.

While to many in our day...that is just an interesting history me it is a story of survival that we could very well repeat in our lifetimes. Prophecy regarding last days events prior to Christ's return points to times of very primitive living. Times where farmers cease farming...and people flee from city to city to avoid mobs and destruction.

I have been studying for a while now the various edible plants that are found in the wild. When people find out that I eat wild food...some think that is pretty strange...a pursuit for someone who is a peculiar person...and perhaps not in a good way. Perhaps they feel this way because they do not understand the severity of what is to come...and how useful a skill foraging would be in hard times.

Others say to me "If things get that rough where I need to eat wild plants...I'll come and find you!!" But what if I am already gone? Relying on me to teach you what you can eat when "there is no store" is not a sound plan of self-reliance....especially if I have already evacuated my family!

Some think that they can grow all they need to eat or store it. But...what if you are driven from your home by war...natural disaster...mobs...etc? A person separated from their food could be in pretty sorry shape.

What about people with health needs...who rely on medication? When your supply of meds runs out...what then? Did you realise that God made a drugstore that may have the answer to many of your maladies (yes...not all...but many)?!
He reminds of this in...Alma 46: 40

"And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land—but not so much so with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men weresubject by the nature of the climate—"

God prepared plants and roots in North America to "remove the cause of diseases"!!

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have fresh eat alone or to add to your food storage to make it more palatable...and last longer...that you don't have to grow yourself?!

Wouldn't it be wonderful to know how to heal yourself for free...from plants that grow all around us!? Nature can be your store...year round!

I would encourage you to learn about what foods can be eaten in the wild and how to prepare well as their medicinal values. You could at least learn a handful of the really common plants that are found across the US. It would be wise to have this knowledge and have on hand at least one book (or more) that will help you to find some wild plants for a reference.

There are many foraging books that have been written over the years. Here are a few that I have picked up and read...and my take on them. They are in no particular order...and there are many more worthwhile books that I don't cover here. You may consider doing like I do and check some out from the library before you buy anything...

Foraging Along the California Coast - Peter Howthorn - I love the ocean...but have never cared much for any of the food that comes out of it. I do like fish and chips...but what doesn't taste good deep fried!? Though my taste buds now say "NO"...I do want to know what can be eaten from our local beaches...especially if I was in a survival situation. Peter Howthorn gives the methods to harvest all kinds of sea life...many of which I didn't know could be eaten...and gives recipes for each. He also has a section devoted to various types of seaweeds and their uses. The book is broken up into southern...central and northern California...and then into what kind of beach one is on...rocky...sandy...creeks...etc. The book is illustrated by Peters wife...and she does a good job. Still...I wonder if I would be able to identify the certain fish with her one drawing of it. If you were looking for certain identification of the various sea life...without a background in sea life would probably need another book to go with this one. This would be a fun read in the colder months...bundled up...drinking my hot chocolate on the oceans shore.

Edible and Useful Plants of California - Charlotte Bringle Clarke - First of all...I love the fact that this book is focused on the state where I live. Many of the foraging books will contain plants that you will never see in your locale. This book contains information on 200 types of wild plants...and gives some great recipes for how to use them. I really enjoy how much information it gives regarding how the American Indians used the plants. The book has lots of decent line drawings...and in the middle is a section with color photos of a handful of the plants. There is a helpful section that gives drawings of some of the basics of botany. The book is broken up into sections based upon what area you are in...wetlands...mountains...etc. I would not buy this book as the best book for a person to be able to identify various plants...though it is helpful...but instead for sheer number of plants covered...the fact that it is for California (if you live here)...and the depth of information about uses. Personally I consider this book a must have for a serious California forager.

Stalking the Wild Asparagus - Euell Gibbons - This is not an identification book. This is a book for a person who already is familiar with the discussed plant...or as a primer to get a person interested to find it! Euell Gibbons is seen by many as being like the father of modern foraging. Many other foraging books will cite his works. Here is a guy who as a youth foraged out of necessity for his family to survive through the dust bowl. His insatiable desire to understand the plant world...amassed a wealth of firsthand knowledge of the uses of various plants over a lifetime. He is not regurgitating things he read that someone else talked about...but his own experience. He has also written one on herbs called "stalking the healthful herbs" that is equally wonderful. His one on sea foraging called "Stalking the blue eyed scallop"...I haven't read yet.

Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants - Christopher Nyerges - One of my very favorite books. To my knowledge...the plants he chose can be found...with only maybe a few exceptions...across the US. The plants are listed in alphabetical order. Excellent information regarding the edible uses...and the medicinal. He includes much about Indian lore. One of my favorite things is all he put in the book about the vitamins in each plant and comparing it to other common plants. For example he states that "One cup of cleaned rose hips has as much vitamin C as 12 dozen apples". The photos are in black and white and not always that clear...but his descriptions of what to look for are great. I use this one regularly in the field.

The Practical Mushroom Encyclopedia - Peter Jordan and Steven Wheeler - Pictures so real that you feel like you could reach out and touch them!!! Seriously...the macro photos are remarkable...they remind me of the beautiful photo's in dorling kindersley books. The book is in 3 main parts...1. An intro to mushroom foraging 2. Edible and poisonous mushrooms photos and information 3. Recipes for cooking with the edible mushrooms. This is a wonderful introduction to the world of mushroom foraging.

Mushrooms Demystified - David Aurora - This book is no joke. It is just under 1000 pages of in depth mushroom info. This is NOT LIGHT READING!!! It covers some 2000 species and contains over 800 photos. Most of those photos are in black and white...but the middle section has some nice color photos. This quite overwhelming. Every page requires mental gymnastics as you try to figure out technical words longer than your brain can handle and the pronunciation of which would hurt your tongue. I think I will come back to it when I get more in depth with mushrooms...but that may be a while. For now I am doing mushroom addition and subtraction while this book is doing calculus.

Botany in a Day - Thomas J. Elpel - A wonderful book to get a person without a ton of understand the basics of botany. This will help the studious reader to understand plant families and why they are in a family. It also contains all kind of information on the edible species and their medicinal uses.

The Flavors of Home - Margit Roos-Collins - A wonderful book about foraging in the San Francisco Bay area. She gives information as to what local places she has found various specimens...which can be valuable if you are seeking out a certain plant. The line drawings of the plants are well done...but I would still want other books to confirm that I had the right plant. There is a wonderful graph in the back of the book that outlines a plan of what you can be looking for year round to forage in our area. It covers to some extent poisonous plants as well...and even gets a bit into seaweeds. I'd love to have my own copy of this one instead of just checking it out from the library...but it is now out of print and it's $11.95 cover price is now $50 or more!

Weeds of the West - This is one that I will need to bite the bullet and buy. It is 630 pages...full of full page photos of the plants in California with descriptions of each...and small close up photos. This is the one that you want on hand to confirm that you have the right plant! It is purely an identification book and does not have any info on foraging. Do not buy this one off of the the University of Wyoming at Laramie, they will sell you Weeds of the West for 26.50 with 5.00 shipping (9th edition, 2006). Their phone # is (307)766-5124

Wild Food Trail Guide - Alan Hall - One of my favorites. It tells you what regions to expect the plant to be found...uses...and what time of year. It has lots of history of the plants...and American Indian uses. Drawings of the plants are OK. A great guide to that is in my backpack on foraging walks.

Acorn Pancakes, Dandelion Salad, and 38 Other Wild Recipes - Jean Craighead George -'ve collected a wild what in the heck are you going to do with it! This book has beautiful illustrations of various dishes that can be made with plants that you collect. Each plant covered also gives a brief bit of information about the plant. A fun book.

Native American Wild Game Fish And Wild Foods Cookbook - David Hunt - 2/3 of the recipes are for things like turtle...raccoon and muskrat. The final 1/3 is devoted to various plant foraging recipes. Most all of them look very basic...requiring only a handful of ingredients...which would be good if you were supplementing food storage. Has a some interesting acorn recipes I want to try.

Where People Feast An Indigenous People's Cookbook - Dolly and Annie Watts - This one...kind of like the last...has recipes for a lot of wild game. I am currently mostly just interested in the plant recipes. A handful of the recipes look up my alley...and I'd like to try them...but most are pretty darned complicated. This is one to check out from the library to try a few dishes...and then take it back.

The Foraging Gourmet - Katie Letcher Lyle - A cookbook with much more! There are line drawings throughout....and a section in the middle with color photographs of some of the plants. Full of great information about each plants history and lore as well as how to find it.

The Wild Wild Cookbook - Jean Craighead George - The cookbook is listed as a "guide for young wild-food foragers"...but really is for any age. Has great recipes that are grouped into seasons when you can forage that item and cook it. Gives some brief info on description of the plant and it's habitat.

Wild in the Kitchen - Ronna Mogelon - A cookbook for wild foods. Line drawings throughout....not really the most attractive book in my opinion...still there are a few recipes I'd like to try.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why Eat Wild Foods?

Now...this one I did not make up. I stumbled across it here. I think it is a great list of reasons to consider learning how to forage for wild foods...and then doing it!

Why Eat Wild Foods?

Wild foods are NUTRITIONAL POWERHOUSES! They are so full of vitamins, minerals and trace minerals that they act like medicine in our bodies, preventing and reversing all manner of ills related to deficiencies in our modern diets.

Wild foods are NUTRITIONALLY SUPERIOR to our domesticated vegetables. Our standard grocery store produce is generally grown in depleted soils, shipped long distances and in long storage, losing nutrients all along the way. Not to mention all the chemicals used to produce it, store it, ripen it, and keep it fresh.

Wild foods are FRESH! Each day that our produce spends in storage, it loses nutrients. Once a living plant is harvested it is literally cut off from its life support system, and its health and vitality diminish rapidly. Consider the amount of time from the field to the truck to the market to the fridge to the table. Wild foods are fresh, often only a few hours lapse between the harvest and the table.

Wild foods are FREE! It does not cost a dime to harvest a dandelion. Supplementing your diet with wild foods can help you save on groceries. They can also help you save on the expense of costly vitamins and supplements. And you will save on the high cost of health care, too!

Wild foods are AVAILABLE! They are everywhere, all around us, city or country. In fact, people spend millions of dollars every year trying to eradicate them (consider the plight of the dandelions). A short walk from anywhere you live can provide a wild feast. Wild foods also have a much longer growing season than farm and garden crops. They are available as soon as the snow melts until it blankets the ground again, whereas our first garden peas and lettuce aren’t ready until late May or June!

Wild foods are ABUNDANT! The word ‘prodigal’ means recklessly abundant, lavishly bountiful. Our wild foods are such, they grow in such profusion that it is impossible to over harvest them and there is always enough for everyone (including the birds, the butterflies and the four-legged ones)!

Wild foods are DROUGHT-RESISTANT! In a drought cycle, while the lawns and gardens are suffering and turning brown, the wild plants are thriving. Wild plants and weeds are much better equipped to handle extremes in our weather than our tender garden variety plants.

Wild foods are SURVIVAL FOOD! It’s a secure feeling to know that if the grocery store were to close tomorrow or some major disaster cut off supply lines, the wild food is always there. Y2K caused many to take a second look at our dependency on centralized power and supply systems.

Wild foods are GOOD EXERCISE! The very act of harvesting wild foods is healthy for you! Going grocery shopping in the fresh air, in beautiful places is food for the soul as well as the body.

Wild foods are LESS WORK! Harvesting wild food is much less labor intensive than gardening and farming. Consider the labor involved in preparing the soil, planting, weeding, watering and caring for your garden. In the wild gardens all that work is already done for you! All you have to do is harvest! Consider also the hours of labor that you do at your job to afford to buy your groceries….

Wild foods are ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY! Harvesting wild foods helps you become more sensitized to the environment, more in tune with the seasons, and more aware of unfriendly practices like spraying, mowing, overgrazing, and dumping.

Wild foods are POLITICALLY CORRECT! Eating foods grown in our own environment means less dependence on industrialized agriculture. And it’s organic!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Eat the Weeds...

Marches Ensign has an article by Marion G. Romney that includes a Readers Digest article that reads as follows...

“In our friendly neighbor city of St. Augustine [Florida] great flocks of sea gulls are starving amid plenty. Fishing is still good, but the gulls don’t know how to fish. For generations they have depended on the shrimp fleet to toss them scraps from the nets. Now the fleet has moved. …
“The shrimpers had created a Welfare State for the … sea gulls. The big birds never bothered to learn how to fish for themselves and they never taught their children to fish. Instead they led their little ones to the shrimp nets.

“Now the sea gulls, the fine free birds that almost symbolize liberty itself, are starving to death because they gave in to the ‘something for nothing’ lure! They sacrificed their independence for a hand-out.

“A lot of people are like that, too. They see nothing wrong in picking delectable scraps from the tax nets of the U.S. Government’s ‘shrimp fleet.’ But what will happen when the Government runs out of goods? What about our children of generations to come?

“Let’s not be gullible gulls. We … must preserve our talents of self-sufficiency, our genius for creating things for ourselves, our sense of thrift and our true love of independence.” (“Fable of the Gullible Gull,” Reader’s Digest, Oct. 1950, p. 32.)

There is much that can be taken from this story regarding the ills of a welfare state...self reliance and so on... One major thing that stuck out to me is that it is totally possible to die of hunger...and be totally surrounded with food! Without the knowledge of how to use the resources that are all around us...we could end up in a similar situation to those gullible gulls.

There is a man out of Florida called "Green Deane". He has a website called "Eat the Weeds". Through articles...and a multitude of videos...he seeks to help us "gullible gulls" recognize and use the food that is all around us. While many of the plants he identifies are indigenous to his area...many can be found across the they will be recognisable to us on the West Coast. Here he talks about the classic dandelion. Here is sow thistle that is so common in the Sacramento Valley.

He is very knowledgeable...and the classes are free!!! And you don't have to go across town to meet him for the it in your pajamas when you feel like it! Eat the weeds!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Acorns can be people food...

When the United States really falls into hard times...and we are looking for ways to feed our can give peace to know that there are ALL KINDS of wild foods all around us that are ready to be gathered and enjoyed....if only we take the time to learn to identify them...and how to use them. I bet that in your lawn right now...there are several weeds that are quite tasty and you know which ones they are!? From time to time I will do an article on what is generally called "foraging"...or "wild foods" and post it here to bring to light some of these foods that are in our region. The first wild food that I will highlight...that I am really excited acorns!

Acorns are a wild food that even the smallest of children can identify. To the children that find them they are a novelty...and to most adults they are a nuisance...litter to be discarded. They drop from Oak trees in the Sacramento valley by the barrel full. A friend of mine recently told me how he had filled up his green waste bins multiple times with nothing but acorns! He exclaimed to me "What a waste...I know there is a way to make them into the Indians did! I got a bumper crop and they are just going straight to the green waste".

If you have ever been adventurous and tried even the tiniest bite of raw probably regretted putting it in your mouth. When eaten raw...they are BITTER. What is so bitter is what is called "Tannic acid" or "Tannin". This is the stuff that can be used to tan leather...that LDS people often cite as a main reason why coffee is bad for you. So how can acorns be people food with all of that tannic acid? How are they processed to make them good to eat?

The last few weeks I have been investigating that...and here are some highlights and some thoughts....

I would guess that at some point we all did a report on the American Indians...and how they pounded acorns into flour. While not all tribes made heavy use of acorns for their sustenance....some tribes used acorn as their main source of food. I just checked out a book this last week from the library called "It will live forever". It was a really interesting peek into some of the methods of acorn preparation of the Miwok and Paiute Indians that lived in the Yosemite valley. The book outlines how to process acorns with the most rudimentary of tools...and much of the culture revolving around the "people of the acorn". One thing that the book made clear is that there is no "one way" to do the can be done a variety of ways. Methods vary from tribe to tribe...and even within tribes...or even families.

I am sure that the thought of sitting around for hours pounding acorn with rocks doesn't sound all that appealing to many. You will probably be pleased to know that you don't have to lift and drop an rock for hours to get a product!...There are modern methods that can be employed.

This last week I tried out one of these methods. Without getting into all of the details...I collected the acorns that are still falling from my "Interior Live Oak's" in my backyard...and followed this method to prepare the acorns. The flour was completed yesterday...and today I made my first acorn muffins! The kids in our preschool all loved them...and asked for seconds...and for thirds (to which we said "no".) They turned out to be like a spice cake...they were really good. I had some family eat some of a muffin and I asked them what they thought the special ingredient could which they guessed at various spices and nuts. Imagine their surprise when I told them it was made with "Acorn!" My grandmother exclaimed..."Like the Indians!!"

Here are some interesting points about acorns...and stuff to get you to want to use them!...

1. They are probably the most easy foraging food to identify! You aren't going to make a mistake and poison yourself! Identifying oak tree's can be difficult...because of the hybridization between the species...but you will not mistake the acorn that drops from it.

2. In hard times...if you took the time to learn how to use would probably be the only one within miles that would have any idea how to eat them.

3. All acorns are edible from all varieties of Oak. They have differing flavors....different amounts of oils...differing amounts of tannic acid...etc.

4. They can be dried and stored for a LONG time. The black oaks acorn can be dried and stored for upwards of 13 years!! Tannic acid is a natural preservative...the higher the tannic acid content...the longer it will store.

5. Once leeched of the tannic acid...the acorn can be made into a mush that is so mild an infant can eat it! It can be eaten without adding anything to it...or it can be mixed in with other foods to bulk them up. It is versatile!

6. ACORNS ARE A SURVIVAL FOOD OF THE HIGHEST DEGREE!! Acorns are extremely nutritious, containing up to 18 percent fat, 6 percent protein, and 68 percent carbohydrate as well as vitamins A and C and many amino acids. 100 grams of acorn flour (roughly one cup) contains a whopping 500 calories, 30 grams of fat, and 54 grams of carbohydrate.

7. Oak tree's are EVERYWHERE! Oak tree's are to be found all over the world...and across the US. While other wild foods are only can be assured that an Oak tree can be found most anywhere in the US. In the Sacramento valley they are especially plentiful. The food they drop is ready to be picked up by the barrel full!

8. You don't have to plant and tend the crop! In contrast to growing your own garden...which takes a lot of time and effort to get the fruit...acorns just fall from the trees without any thought of taking care of the tree! Oaks drop their acorns according to a cycle...weak years followed by a strong year...and the timeline is based largely on what variety Oak it is. Then there is also a phenomenon called "masting" where an Oak will drop an unreal amount of acorns (often really large) my friend experienced.

9. You can actually have a really long season of harvestable acorns! Many Oaks are dropping acorns back in October...November...and here it is mid-February and I am still collecting!

10. If things got really rough for our nation...and people came to you for help...if you knew how to process could send them out to gather what they want to eat!

So...what did I learn from my first attempt at using acorn as a food?....

1. If you over bake the will take forever to get all of the tannic acid to leech out. I think next time I will not bake them...I will dehydrate them a bit instead. It will be one of those things that will develop as I go.

2. Ideally you will collect your acorns when they have freshly fallen. The Miwok and Paiute Indians both selected their acorns like we would our oranges at the grocery store. Taking only the acorns that had no holes or bumps...and looked healthy. I used substandard acorns...and it was still time I want it to be even better!

3. I want to get a Davebilt nutcracker. After leaning over a pile of acorns for a good stretch of time...whacking them with a hammer...breaking the shells...winnowing...etc...I found that my back was tired and my fingers were tender from cracking the shells. This is work I would gladly do to survive...but it sure would be nice to mechanize to process to make it easier. The Davebilt is THE way to shell acorns...according to people that use acorn as a means of opposed to a hobby. Watch this video of the Davebilt in action.

4. You can be a total rooky...and still get a product that your kids will eat...and love...and could even thrive upon...and this from the ground in my backyard! Better in our bellies...than in the green waste!

Here is the way I will try it next time...just to try another method

Julia F. Parkers New Way Acorn (from the "It will live forever book")

Crack 4 pounds of acorn with a hammer. When cracking, tap shells lightly enough that the nutmeats will split into halves or thirds, but won't shatter into small pieces.

Remove shells by hand, returning shells and any bad nuts to the earth.


To loosen the skins, lay acorn on a cloth on a table in the sun. Split grooves open by pressing down with the sharp edge of a knife held lengthwise in the groove. Sprinkle the acorns with water and allow to dry. Rub handfuls of nutmeats between hands to remove skins. Scrape any adhering skins off with a knife. Taking bad nuts into account, 4 pounds result in about 4 cups of whole, cleaned acorn.

Blender Crushing
Measure out 4 cupfuls of whole, cleaned nutmeats. Put 1 cupful (5 1/2 oz.) in a blender and break up at low speed. The acorn will jump around in the blender. Once the nutmeats are broken up, switch the blender to high speed and run until no more acorn falls from the edges onto the blades. Mix acorn up with the handle of a wooden spoon, making sure to include the acorn nearest the bottom, which tends to get sticky. Repeat blending and mixing until acorn is reduced to fine flour. (If acorn gets oily as blended, add a few whole nutmeats at a low speed to absorb the oils.) Remove the now fluffy flour and set aside in a bowl. Add second cupful and repeat the process. Add a third cupful and repeat. Add a fourth cupful and repeat. This results in 5 fluffy cupfuls of flour.

If there are chunks of acorn in the flour, it needs to be run throught the blender again. Don't put more than a cup of acorn in the blender at a time - any more might cause the motor to burn out.


Put flour into a 5-pound flour, sugar or salt sack. Fill the sack full of water and allow it to drain so the flour is saturated. Tie the sack to a faucet and turn the faucet on just past a drip, so that a very slow, steady stream of water drips over the outside of the sack (which serves as a waterbreak) all night long.

Place leached acorn (when wet, it reduces again to 4 cups) in a stainless steel pot. Add 3 cups water and mix with acorn. Cook at high heat, stirring frequently. While acorn cooks, gradually add 7 more cups of water. Keep stirring. Let the acorn boil for 15 minutes, until it has the consistency of tomato soup. For cornmeal mush consistency, add less water. Makes 11.5 cups nuppa. If using fresh (newly gathered) acorn, increase the amount of water used, as fresh acorn thickens more than older acorn.