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“The Pharmacy Is All Around Us”

On November 11, 2013, Frank Grindrod made his first primetime appearance! Here’s the segment from Chronicle, Main Streets episode (you can scroll in about 2:49 minutes to see Frank’s portion about wild edibles; or you can watch the whole segment to see some of our community).

Wild Edibles with Frank Grindrod of Wilderness Survival Training School Earthwork Programs in the Hills of western mass from Frank Grindrod on Vimeo.

Re-Awaken a Long-Lost Tradition of Gathering Wild Food as a Family!

Let’s Get NUTS!!

Hickory HarvestThere are all kinds of fall events. In addition to going for a hike and seeing the foliage, how about harvesting some nuts to prepare and eat?

There’s an amazing tree in the forest right here around us that will help us develop a stronger connection to the natural world. This is such an important part of our patterning on nature that plants seeds for the rest of our development and our ch
This tree is strong, majestic, camouflaged and blends in well with the other trees and not well known by sight, but totally worth the effort in recognizing how to find it…once you can find it. Next you have to figure out which one tastes the best because there are different kinds of hickory trees.ildren and how we will interact for years to come.

It’s not often that you hear people talk about hickories—they are not well known—so let’s go over some identification details that will be helpful in being able to develop the secret to finding this tree and some wild edible foraging skills too.

As we get started, direct your focus on looking at the different habitats in your area and aspects of the trees, bark, leaves (on the ground which may be easier to reach) and up in the tree, note branching structure and nuts and outer coating (husk). Find an area that has a lot of oaks, because we are looking for an oak-hickory forest type. Trees need to be older than 40 years for producing nuts; the younger trees will not.

Hickory TreeMichael Wojtech has a fantastic book, Bark: a Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast. I highly recommend it, and this will help give you some really great images and great detail on what to look for. We are fortunate that he has shared an image with us here in the article. I am feeling very grateful for all his research and his graciousness in sharing the knowledge.Most the time when you find hickory nuts they will be right under your feet. They are likely to be in an area that has a lot of squirrel activity; also blue jays are active in eating and caching (storing) them too. There are many kinds of wildlife feeding on this bounty: deer, bears, turkey, raccoons. You may find tracks and signs of their feeding, climbing and presence. You might even find the nuts on the pavement of the roads, parking lots, and other parks, golf courses and recreation areas. (Be mindful of the use of pesticid
Start to create maps of the area of your favorite spots and begin to look forward to visiting those special places around harvesting times every year. As a forager, this is a good thing to pay attention to and develop the habit of. Create special names and stories about these places, and soon you will want to return often, whether you are harvesting or not.es where you are harvesting food.)After gathering for a little bit, you might want to add a little excitement, if necessary.GAME: Nutty Squirrels–In this activity, you are a family of squirrels. By noticing the types of trees, are you able to find from where the hickories are coming (which is the parent tree?)? This is a great way to utilizefield guides and general observation skills. How many nuts can we gather as a group in a certain time limit? Ready set go!
You can always weave in predator-prey dynamics; lots of animals and birds eat squirrels!

Hickory in ShellBack to figuring out which nuts we have. Once you have the nuts in your hand, you can find out whether or not they are hard hickory nuts or soft? Why is this important? This will help in identification and to help you be successful in picking the best tasting ones and which to gather.

Look closely at the features of the nut. Is the husk thick or thin? When I say “thick,” I mean like a quarter- to half-inch thick. “Thin” is similar to an acorn shell, sometimes thinner.

Next, you need to shell and crack your nut. If it cracks really easily, you have what’s called a “soft hickory.” If it cracks really hard and the shells are like rocks, you have a hard hickory. There are two different groups of hickories: hard and soft.
Since there are no poisonous hickories, you can experiment and may be lucky enough to find Pignut Hickory, which is a thin-husked hickory with a hard shell similar to Shagbark but a little bigger in size and more nutmeat inside. This is the PRIZE one that can double your harvesting efforts.This is really helpful because the hard hickories with the hard shell have the sweet nutmeat inside. The soft hickories have the bitter nutmeat; at least it needs to be leached (take out tannins) and can still be edible. We are going to focus on the ones that do not need the extra step of leaching. These are the Shagbark and Pignut Hickories

Hickory Shell.

I have found that Shagbark and Pignut together are excellent. There is some information out there that says Pignut is bitter, but I think they’re confusing that with Bitternut. It can be a little confusing, so let’s focus on the hard and sweet hickories this time.

You can crack nuts i

ndividually, similar to the walnuts you get in the store, using a pick and getting the nutmeat out (which really makes the effort worth it when you taste the goodness). It can take about 20 minutes, and you can have a generous handful.

Teagan Crushing Hickory NutsThere is a learning curve of breaking the nuts to access them. You will find that some of them are hard to hold and hit just right, (watch those fingers) break the nut and try to open it; you have to be careful how much force you use because too much force just smashes it then you have the shell mixed in with the nutmeat and it can be challenging to get that out.

Learning traditions from our past and developing seasonal harvesting routines for free food creates an enriching future

A Recipe from our Past Called “Powcohicora” (Algonquin Language)

Historically, the native people used hickory. The way they did it was to pulverize the nuts, crushing the shell and nutmeat together, and place all of it in a container and boil it with a watchful eye. The shells sink and everything else rises to the top and they skim the heavy liquid off the top, which is called “decanting.”

Crushed HickoriesImportant: They got a special cream off the top which is hickory nut cream, and the rest of it underneath the cream is hickory nut milk (sweeten to taste, but not necessary).

This is not only sweet but it also can be very good as a soup broth or for a stew; it’s full of oils and healthy fats (very high in calories as an easy to digest oil including the high-quality essential fatty acids shown to prevent heart disease), and it’s a good source of vitamin B1 and magnesium. They also provide protein, carbohydrates, iron, phosphorus, potassium, trace minerals, and vitamins A and C
I hope this has inspired you to get out into the fields and forest, and in a sacred way, harvest from these great beings. I also would love to hear about your experiences learning about wild food. May we meet each other underneath a beautiful hickory tree…

Welcome to the Hickory Club.

 

Wild Edibles & Medicinal Plants

LEARNING FROM THE PAST AND PRESENT

There are many different plants that offer potential foods for us to experience. Our ancestors all over the world remind us to share a deep relationship with plants and the importance of a sacred balance. There are cultural tracks left behind for us to follow and learn this deep knowledge that may come directly from indigenous elders around the globe as well as a plethora of information in Ethnobotany and wild food literature.

I have had an opportunity to study with a number of authors and specialists and have integrated foraging into my life for more than a decade. These wild foragers, each coming from there own unique perspective, share many commonalities – passion for sharing their love of plants, eating wild food as a lifestyle, and the tremendous depth of knowledge they share. I have been able to integrate many of their best practices so as to add to the living book of eating wild.

Inspiring foragers with whom I have trained with include: Doug Elliot, Sam Thayer, Arthur Haines, Blanche Cybele Derby, Rosemary Gladstar, Walt Gigandet, Russ Cohen and John Kallas

As people discovered the gift of fire, many parts of the plants became available as food. It has been scientifically documented that the nutritional value in wild plants is beyond their cultivated counterparts.

There are many cycles in the natural world, and many of our classes are designed by what is available during these seasons. These cycles are all different in what they yield with many species of plants and the many parts, such as;

• seeds,
• shoots,
• corms,
• rhizomes,
• petioles,
• leaves,
• biennial stalks,
• buds,
• flowers,
• pollen.

The forager knows this and looks forward to the amazing diversity of food available in early spring, late spring, early summer, late summer, early fall, late fall, and even into the winter. Through this knowledge, we learn to develop a personal relationship with these plants and the special places that they grow.

THE NEED IS GREAT RIGHT NOW TO EAT LOCAL

For ultimate health and wellness, eating WILD is the best health care insurance you can have. With these changing times that we are living in, it is important to supplement our cultivated harvest, supporting our local farmers, with a WILD harvest.

Wild Edibles

BOOKS ARE GREAT RESOURCES BUT DIRECT EXPERIENCE WITH A KNOWLEDGEABLE PERSON IS INVALUABLE.

Earthwork Programs has designed a Wild Edibles and Medicinal Plant IMMERSION SERIES to share this valuable knowledge. Join us for this unique experience in WILD FOOD and allow it to complement your current culinary habits and lifestyle.

 

Acorns,Acorns where are you acorns

This year I started to notice the oaks producing nuts and them dropping in late august.  Now coming onto the end of October I am noticing hardly ANY acorns dropping. There have been only a few individual trees where I have seen a good crop.

Last year we were swimming in acorns.It was a mast year!

Mast Year: a phenomenon when the fruit (mast) produced by trees in a given year is exponentially higher than the average; by extension, a year in which vegetation produces a significant abundance of fruit

 

However this year there are hardly any.

another great reason as a forager to learn about storing food.

Dry your acorns for a few weeks by a wood stove and they will be shelf stable for a year or so.

 

Next time there is a mast year stock up so you have acorns for the year where hardly any drop.Watch the cycles.

All the best

Frank

Free Food Falling from the Sky…Acorns!

Going into the outdoors in the mid-autumn we notice the leaves carpeting the ground in a beautiful all natural mosaic. Earlier in the season, we noticed the leaves changing colors–scarlet, orange, yellow and flame colors like a fire. As we continue to walk in the forest, we are surrounded by these majestic beings that connect the earth to the sky. These trees, in their transformation, are signs that let us know something is happening…a transition is taking place. When there is a slight breeze, we see a few leaves blowing here and there, and when the breeze is really strong, it is like it is snowing leaves. There is a primal urge to run underneath them and catch them as it makes us feel alive and connected and WILD. We also hear the sound of rocks pelting the ground and off other trees. They are not rocks at all but they sure sound heavy when you notice that THUMP. This is a great sound…it is raining food. Free food from the sky…ACORNS abound the oak trees surrounding us.

During late summer, we noticed the acorns dropping, and if we take a closer look, we are aware that almost all of them have caps attached no matter what types of oaks they are. Ancient teachings passed on from our ancestral trackers and foragers, we know this means these acorns were released early by the tree because they are parasitized or have been damaged in some way. In some cases, this means the acorn weevil got to them first before they could be used as food for us. As our awareness deepens, we realize that there is a second time the acorns fall…in October.

This is the perfect time for harvest! Look there are a lot with NO CAPS! These are the ones we want! Before we gather these acorns, let’s pause for a moment of gratitude and thanks. Here is a view from the past of these majestic beings.

The largest white oak was measured at 24½’ around in Paris; this tree is 118’ tall and has a spread of branches 127’. Its rival–the great oak at Wind Mills–is measured with the spread of 148’…a dimension unequaled by any other oak.

It is said that “six generations of the same family have played here, where two thousand children could probably be gathered in this patriarch’s shade. The supply of Indian arrowheads discovered in the soil in which it grows seem never quite exhausted. In the probable life span of this tree have been born, have mightily wrought, and died, William Penn, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Woodrow Wilson, Peter the Great, Napoleon, and Beethoven. Thrones have crumbled and new empires arisen; great ideas have been born and great pictures painted, and the world revolutionized by science and invention, and still no man can say how many centuries this Oak will endure or what nations and creeds it may outlive.” (Donald Culross Peattie, A Natural History of Trees of Eastern and Central North America, 1977.)

Have you heard about being able to eat acorns and making flour from them?

Gather the acorns, preferably from red oaks, which are more plentiful here in Western Massachusetts than our white oaks. Once we gather these acorns, we fill a bowl of water and do the “float test.” Put a handful of acorns in the bowl and watch the results. What did you notice? Did any sink? Hopefully most of them did; that means they most likely do not have any acorn weevil larvae in them (that’s good–potential food).

Do you have some floaters? Open them up and inspect them and what do you find? They are occupied; someone is using them for a home and a spaceship to get from the tree to the ground.

Now that we have the RIGHT acorns (they sank), we need to crack open the shells; rocks or nut crackers work. (My favorite way is lay them out in pairs on a towel and tap them with the end of a log. This way you can crack 50 in a couple of minutes.) Crunch, crunch, crunch…LOTS OF FUN…especially when the acorn hits another one and so on. It is like nature’s pinball game.

Time to leach out the tannins! Why?

Acorns have natural tannins in them, which are anti-nutrients. In all nuts, grains and seeds, and beans and legumes, there are phytochemicals. This is one of the reasons why we soak beans before using them. In acorns, the unprocessed tannins bind (attach) with zinc, iron, magnesium and calcium, and pull them out of your body. These are healthy minerals we need. That is why we must soak them.

What do we do with the tannins? This is great medicine for many things. It is an astringent, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. Perfect for healing POISON IVY, in particular, once you have the rash. (So keep the water that you soak your acorns in; don’t just throw it out).

Ground up your acorns into pebble size or smaller. The smaller, the better and the quicker tannins will be leached out.

Cold leaching (no fire necessary; just time):
1. Put acorn meal in cold water and let it sit for a day.
2. Pour out the water at the end of the day and refill with fresh water.
3. Repeat for 10 to 12 days; there will be no more tannins in your acorn meal…it is now leached.
4. Pour off water; put in pan, spread out ¼” thick and put in full sun a couple days (bring in at night before the dew) and repeat till dry. Or use a dehydrator.
**Refrigerate for storage**
Cut with other flour to allow your acorn flour to last longer.

A couple of my wild food mentors eat acorns throughout the whole year. Thanks for all your research and sharing Arthur Haines and Sam Thayer

Acorn Bread Recipe
1 cup acorn flour
1 cup wheat flour or all-purpose flour
1 egg (1 1/2 is better)
2 tablespoons oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup milk

 

 

Making Fruit Leather with Wild Berries

A Great Way for the Whole Family to Connect with NatureAutumn Olive Bush Full

There’s something magical about gathering your own food as a family, and what an education for children and for families to have this experience together. Learning how to see through the eyes of a forager really helps to create a bond with the natural world so we can develop deeper relationships through routines and rituals, especially when you immerse yourself in our forests and fields.

I remember talking with a Seneca man of the Haudenosaunee nation (People of the Longhouse). He told me a story of the origin of the strawberry and how this plant heals human relations. There is a special ceremony, and in honor of the strawberry festival, no one would eat a single berry before the ceremony. It is a full day of songs, stories, dances and giving thanks that the strawberries have returned once again. This also begins the time of the berry ripening. This was not only time to be thankful for the strawberry but all of creation. Strawberries are called big medicine and the leader of the berries because they are the first to ripen and begin the berry harvesting time; they are also shaped like hearts. The Seneca man told me they drink the juice as a way of rejuvenation. There is a whole culture around harvesting berries. We can learn a lot from other cultures that give thanks and celebrate community and values from fostering a deeper relationship with plants.

Autumn Olive in HandBeing fall, we begin looking for one of North America’s best-kept secrets of wild food: the autumn olive, silver berry, autumn berry. This immigrant from another land is a real gift for the forager. This shrub has many names; it grows in fields, and the leaves and the berries have a silver hue and look speckled. They are ripe anywhere from late August all the way to mid November according to wild food author Sam Thayer.

Autumn Olive Bush CloseupFinding autumn olive is great fun, and you will notice there are so many berries that the branches droop from the weight. When picking, watch out for the small thorns it has to deter animals who want to eat the fruits. You will be amazed at the amount you can gather in such a short time. Several gallons from one bush are very common and you still leave plenty for all the wildlife.

Hands in Autumn OliveNow that we have all our berries, we want to make sure that we process them right away or freeze them for a sunny day. You can get creative in how you mash them. Make sure to keep the seeds; they contain omega 3’s and the flesh is an antioxidant, high in vitamin C and contains lycopene, a chemical compound that promotes prostate health.Autumn Olive at Fire

The trick with creating fruit leather is making sure it dries thoroughly, or it could mold. Have the top half dry and cut in small rectangles so it is easier to flip. Let other side dry completely. When done properly, it can store for years.

Before eating anything from the wild, make sure to properly identify it and study with a forager since there is not enough information here.

So get out in nature and experience the abundance of autumn olive, and enjoy your fruit leather for years to come.
————————————————————————————————————–
Autumn Olive Fruit Leather Recipe
Autumn Olive ProcessedThis can be quite tart, especially at the beginning of the season. After the first frost, the berries are even more delicious!

Collect the berries.

Mash the berries. Make sure pulp and juice are mixed thoroughly.

Spread on tray; berries should be ¼” thick or less; the thinner it is, the less time it takes to dry.

Put in direct sun for many hours—5 or more. When top half is dry, flip (the bottom should be able to slip). Let the bottom half dry (again, many hours). Make sure it dries thoroughly.

Seeing through the Eyes of the Forager

LEARNING FROM THE PAST AND PRESENT
acorns are edibleThere are many different plants that offer potential foods for us to experience. Our ancestors all over the world remind us to share a deep relationship with plants and the importance of a sacred balance. There are cultural tracks left behind for us to follow and learn this deep knowledge that may come directly from indigenous elders around the globe as well as a plethora of information in Ethnobotany and wild food literature.

I have had an opportunity to study with a number of authors and specialists and have integrated foraging into my life for more than a decade. These wild foragers, each coming from there own unique perspective, share many commonalities – passion for sharing their love of plants, eating wild food as a lifestyle, and the tremendous depth of knowledge they share. I have been able to integrate many of their best practices so as to add to the living book of eating wild.

Inspiring foragers with whom I have trained with include: Doug Elliot, Sam Thayer, Arthur Haines, Blanche Cybele Derby, Rosemary Gladstar, Walt Gigandet, Russ Cohen and John Kallas

fiddleheads are abundant!As people discovered the gift of fire, many parts of the plants became available as food. It has been scientifically documented that the nutritional value in wild plants is beyond their cultivated counterparts.

There are many cycles in the natural world, and many of our classes are designed by what is available during these seasons. These cycles are all different in what they yield with many species of plants and the many parts, such as;
• seeds,
• shoots,
• corms,
• rhizomes,
• petioles,
• leaves,
• biennial stalks,
• buds,
• flowers,
• pollen.

children and edibles are a natural comboThe forager knows this and looks forward to the amazing diversity of food available in early spring, late spring, early summer, late summer, early fall, late fall, and even into the winter. Through this knowledge, we learn to develop a personal relationship with these plants and the special places that they grow.

THE NEED IS GREAT RIGHT NOW TO EAT LOCAL
For ultimate health and wellness, eating WILD is the best health care insurance you can have. With these changing times that we are living in, it is important to supplement our cultivated harvest, supporting our local farmers, with a WILD harvest.beautiful berries

Our Wild Food Immersion Series is a “how to” experience that builds confidence and competence in gathering. Check our Calendar, and join us for this unique experience in WILD FOOD and allow it to complement your current culinary habits and lifestyle.

The White Pine

Historic White Pine—Past , Present and Future…How the Land, People and Culture Were Transformed

Join me as we walk out into the forest with the snow underneath our feet, looking at the stories that the land holds for us. We see the majestic pine, the one that grows tall through the canopy, like a cathedral, and if you are still and quiet, you’ll hear them whispering. This is an incredible sound…the song of the whispering pines. Throughout the land, we see the majestic white pine that towers over the other trees and is the one that stands out similar to Mount Monadnock amongst all the older mountains that are now rolling hills.

Bears and Pines: Bears use these trees for their height and safety for their cubs. They also use them to keep cool in summer; taking a dip in the lake then climbing these trees close to the top, they sway in the breeze, “evapo cooling” in the treetops above where the wind is. They are brilliant. Next time you’re in bear country, look up and see them chilling out. Check out Lynn Rogers bears.org for amazing facts about bears.

Our Feathered Friends: I have seen countless pine trees having a height of 50 feet or more, and so many of them have squirrel nests (also called drays), hawks’, crows’ and even owls’ nests too. There are so many types of birds—from song birds to raptors and even water birds—where pine provides an important role in their daily life. If you look carefully under these trees, you can find feathers, skulls, bones, pellets and more.

A Historical Perspective: Long ago our white pine was shipped all over the world—England, Spain, Portugal and Africa—for its amazing quality of wood used by woodcarvers, furniture makers, and home builders too. One of the most important things was using the wood for the masts of ships. Every dominant white pine had the Royal Navy’s mark of the King (this was the king’s broad arrow)…a slash that was visible for all to see and it meant that this tree was the property of the English crown. This is what prompted the first of our forest conservation laws, which we still have today.

Today We’ve Learned So Much from our White Pine: We learned from our ancestors, the Native American people. When the Europeans first came over, they got sick, often with scurvy, and the native people helped to heal them with the white pine tree. Vitamin C is in the white pine tree. These photographs show how to make White Pine Tea, which is high in vitamin C (higher than any citrus in the world).

Being able to make white pine tea primitively—rock boil water in a container with the use of fire, and steeping the needles and a using a mortar and pestle in order to get the most amount of surface area to access the properties of the needles—is very empowering to connect with another perspective which helps our relationship with nature.

This tree also contains powerful antioxidants, pro vitamin A and vitamin E along with several B complex vitamins. It also contains several minerals, including potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and manganese and amino acids.

There is much that we can learn from the white pine…let’s remember that the next time we see one.

Ancestral Plants: A Primitive Skills Guide to Important Edible, Medicinal, and Utilitarian Plants of the Northeast. Volume 1.

Please help to support Arthur in his new book.

He has been an inspiration to foragers, botanists,and folks studying primitive skills too.

I have had the pleasure of training with Arthur over this last year and my plant knowledge has grown exponentially!! I highly recommend spending time with this Master herbalist and primitive skills authority.

Keep on learning,

Frank

Orders now being accepted!

Ancestral Plants, volume 1

“Plants were immensely important to primitive people. They supplied them with many things needed for survival: food, clothing, medicine, fibers for cordage, lubricants, hafting materials, fire, raw materials for weapons, poisons for fishing and repelling insects, and much more. This has not changed in today’s world. People still rely on plants for their everyday survival and comfort. The main difference is the majority of the populace today does not know how to identify, collect, and process plants for the things it needs. They are dependent on food stores, pharmacies, clothing stores, etc. For some, this level of dependence on growers and manufacturers is the norm. They have been raised with it all their lives and assume it to be part of living in the modern world. For others, this lack of self-reliance may plant a seed within them that will grow into a desire to understand how our ancestors lived without the use of synthetic and highly processed materials. They may wish to lea

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