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).
Here’s a nice treat–a video and photo slide show that will show you how to shell and separate acorns.
Let’s Get NUTS!!
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.
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!
Back 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
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.
There 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.”
Important: 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.
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;
• biennial stalks,
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.
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.
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.
Being 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.
Finding 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.
Now 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.
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
This 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.