The Acorn Harvest

“You can eat acorns?! 

Many people have been asking me this question these past few weeks as we have been processing up some squrriel loving food from our back woods. But like any wild edible food one must do their research. From multiple sources. The knowledge is out there. A knowledge that has been almost lost and forgotten. Today, chain food stores and corporate farming give us instant ways of accessing food. Why would you harvest a small nut and take on a process that can take hours, even days to do?
Nothing feels more liberating and satisfying than harvesting a sustainable food source from your own backyard, local park or woodland. Acorns are high in carbohydrates, and a good source of fiber and protein. Give me free, nutritional, sustainable food and ancestral knowledge any day.


Harvesting

There are many different species of oaks that produce acorns. A mature oak will start producing around 20 years of age. We are blessed enough to have a handful of white oaks in our back woods. Try to be in tuned to when the tree begins to drop it acorns. A breezy day helps. The kids find it so exciting as the acorns drop into the leaf debris around us. As they yell ”thank you oak tree!” And giggle as they inspect each one they find for weevial holes. If there is a hole, no good. If it still has a cap, probably no good. Most of the acorns we found had started to spout. Those worked out just fine.



Processing 

There are so many methods out there. Every person does it a little different. This is what worked for us. I suggest as you learn and do what works well for you. I’m sure we will adapt our process as we learn more. 

First let your acorns dry up. Anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks or more. I just dump our gathered acorns into a wooden wine box in my dinning room. But be warned those lovely wormy weevils may come out of their food bearing homes onto your dinning room floor. (Hey chicken food I guess!) If you’re not into the occasional escaped weevil, opt for the garage or basement. Cool and dry. Stir them around daily. Watch for mold.

Next, float test a bowl full of acorns. The ones that float to the surface of the water usual have or had a weevil. (We compost those and the shells or save for canvas or deer-hide tanning). Remove acorns from water and pat dry. Use a sharp knife. Towel underneath and cut them into quarters. Depending on how dry they are, sometimes I cut the “crown” off then the sprout and make a slit down the middle. Then peel. If they are still sticking to the shell try putting them into a very low temp oven to help them separate. You don’t want to cook them so a very low temperture is the key. Throw some into a bowl or Tupperware container with a cover and shake. Some come free themselves. Others you pick from the shell making sure the papery dark brown sheath is removed. It can make your batch very bitter. Put the quartered acorns through a grinder or chop them up. Just note that during this process the meat can oxidize outside of the shell. It turns brown like a cut apple would sitting out. I didn’t mind, but if you’re looking in making a light colored acorn flour place the acorn meat in water to help out with this.



Leaching

Some oaks are more bitter than others. Here in New England, white oaks produce acorns that are less bitter than red oaks. What causes their bitterness is a naturally occurring polyphenal called tannins. Tannins are naturally found in plant leaves, seeds, bark, wood and fruit skins. It is important to remove a bulk of the tannins (not good for the kidneys in high amounts). 

The funny thing people don’t realize is squrriels do this naturally by burying their acorns over the winter snow and melt. There are two types of leaching. Cold leaching and hot leaching. Tannins are water soluble. Deciding on what you will use your acorns for dictates what leaching method you use. If you’re making acorn flour, cold leaching is needed because you don’t want to cook out the starch (binding agent). 

Cold leaching can be more time consuming but worth it for making acorn flour. There are so many ways to do it. It can be done by soaking the shelled chopped acorn meat in cold water changing the water many times until the color of the soaking water becomes almost clear. I use a old t shirt and colander. Letting it soak and strain itself. Some people use a large bucket, strain and repeat. The most import thing is the color of the water. Taste test will tell you when they are no longer bitter but nutty.

Hot leaching is used if you are using the “meal” as nut add in. Boil shelled acorns for 30 minutes, strain, fill pot with hot water (not cold this will lock the bitterness into the acorn.) Boil for 30 minutes again, repeat process until you’re acorns are nutty and buttery in flavor and the bitterness is gone. You can use right away or dehydrate it, even grind it up more to a consistancy to your liking. Add it into burgers, meatloaf, mash potatoes, salad toppings, even use in pemmican. 


I know it seems like a lot of work. IT IS!  But it’s a sustainable food that can be appreciated. Next time you step on an acorn, remember that this small nut helped the ancestors that lived before us get through winters. And maybe one day, it will become a sustainable food that all can enjoy.
Now go thank an oak tree. 

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Goldenrod and its Treasures

Goldenrod flowers and leaf tea


This time of year these vibrant yellow towers come into bloom. Their flower tops so bright and lovely that they look like they are screaming at the world, trying to be heard. Trying to share their truth and their amazing properties. Also, this time of year many people complain about their seasonal allergies. Every year people tell me that goldenrod is the blame. This is a common misconception. Don’t be deceived. Its pollen is considered “heavy or sticky” and not air born, therefore most likely not the curprit for allergies. 

Goldenrod Harvest


Common ragweed, on the other hand may be making you sneeze. At the same time goldenrod is flowering, so is ragweed. It is a weed that, understandably why, gets a bad reputation also. When combined with CO2 and combustible fuels it can get pretty nasty if you’re someone who suffers seasonal allergies. Its powdery pollen dances though the air leaving 10-20% of people sneezing. Now before you start hating on this Native plant, it too has benifits. But that is for another blog entry.

Dry some up, make a wreath


Goldenrod is loved by many different pollenators. It is a shame people cut it and remove it from their yards thinking it causes them or family problems. Our bees love it. We know that once the goldenrod has passed, it’s time to start feeding our beehive again. It’s some of the last flowering plants to bloom before the weather starts cooling and the leaves begin to change. I try to enjoy it and appreciate it as much as I can before the colors of summer leave the landscape. We harvest it not only for it’s beauty (wreath making) but also for its full goodness both medicinal and food wise.
Medicinal Uses

Hang gathered bunches out of direct sunlight or in a dark place. I use my basement stairway. Easy to access and dark. Goldenrod makes great tea with honey and a lovely infused oil to be used for topical uses like salves. I use both leaves and flowers. It’s an anti inflammatory, antifungal and good for the kidneys as well (diuretic). Also it helps pollen allergies, fevers, colds, sore throats and flu symptoms. 

Drying goldenrod, pearly everlasting, yarrow


Edible Uses

“What!? You want me to eat it?!” Yes. The modern man’s diet these days consist of sugary, salty, foods. Once our body has it. We want more. I’m not going to lie, I love salt. (To the point I look forward in licking it off my face after going to the beach. Don’t judge.) But what if you could harvest a majority of your greens from plants in your yard you never had to plant, never had to water, never had to weed? Try it. (Obviously know your identification). You will be surprised how your body feels after eating medicinal plants. Like it’s telling you, “I like this!”. 

One can saute up older leaves with olive oil and choice spices or with other veggies like kale. Younger leaves can be added to salads. The roots can be harvested and dried in early spring then ground into a powder to add to soups. It’s flowers make a lovely garnish and are airy and delicious lightly roasted in olive oil. 

Goldenrod leaf, evening primrose leaf, sausage, cheese, stuffed shells


As I go farther down the “rabbit hole” in my journey of learning about new plants and skills, I felt a need to write this. Share with the world that goldenrod has so much to share with us. . Next time you see some hanging out together, yelling to the world about trying to be understood, tell someone about them. They will appreciate it and may just let you enjoy their treasures.

Goldenrod Pizza with Smartweed Leaves

Backyard Rewilding can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Bunchberries and Moosehead Woodland Beer 

When my family and I were up exploring the great north woods of Maine last week, we stumbled upon many different wild edibles and medicinals growing around us. There was this young northern white cedar outside the door of our cabin bursting with small green cones weighing down its branches. There was a rocky ledge point that jutted out into the lake we explored countless times. It was covered in bunchberry, wild low bush blueberry, mountain cranberry and sweet gale. The edges of the long miles of logging roads were covered with lovely wild flowers and medicinals that every time I identified one, I wanted to stop and gather. But with two young children in tow to regulate, time foraging is short and I only wanted to take what I would use. 

So we gathered what we could, teaching our children along the way. Watching. When it comes to berries, young children just want to try them all especially my just turned two year old. We call him Wreckless. His favorite was the bunchberry. 
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) is a small, close to the ground umbrella shaped plant. It has a woody stem and four to seven leaves in a whorled pattern that spreads by underground rhizomes. In the spring it produces tiny flowers sounded by four white bracts (look like petals). The red berries emerge in the late summer and the leaves turn burgundy in the fall. 

After eating blueberries, bunchberry will taste bland. This was my first encounter trying them. A jelly like fruit surrounding a small seed. This was not my husbands first encounter with the mysterious red berry. He had tried them numerous times and was excited about the size of the patch we found. He told me to really try to enjoy the subtle flavor. I noticed my 2 year old excited and wildly gobbling them off my husband’s hand. He loved them. His new developing taste buds savored it’s faint sweetness. We gathered a waterbottle full of them and made pancakes the next morning. I also winged up some bunchberry syrup/sauce. Just a few hand fulls or berries, water and honey in a pot. Boiled it down and jarred. Smelled amazing.


Now back to the beer.  
My previous blog post about The Backyard Gruit Beer came along with us on our trip. It was a hit. Refreshing with a hint of a sour malt taste. So with what we gathered up north came home and brewed a lovely smelling gruit that is fermenting on my counter as I type this. Again, foraging and using plants that you are familiar with is important in creating a gruit. If you are not experienced, that’s okay too. Just use herbs and fruit from your local farmer or store. Many of the measuring I eye balled. I usually go by smell when boiling and adjust. 


1 gallon water 

2 1/2 cups brown sugar or maple syrup 

3 tbsp sweet gale leave and nutlets (Myrica gale)

1 cup Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea)

1/2 cup Eastern White Cedar green cones and sprigs (Thuja occidentalis)

3 tbsps Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

6 flower tops of Yarrow with some top growth leaves (Achillea millefolium)

1/2 cup Common yellow wood sorrel (sour lemon apple flavor)

Couple hand fulls of bunchberies (cornus canadensis with a few blueberries mixed in)

1 packet of ale yeast (or wild, still learning on the yeast front)

Boil for about 30 minutes, cool (I wait until it’s 92 degree F), strain into glass ferment jug, add yeast. Ferment for 10 days. Finish with bottling, priming, capping and rest for 2 weeks.
Enjoy. I’m still amazed how simple it is to enjoy your own homemade beer, with your own gathered ingredients. 

Backyard Rewilding can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally or as a food source.

Harvesting Dock

Weeds are a perspective. 

When one becomes aware and learns the knowledge and properties of the plants and life growing around them, a whole new perspective of the natural world unfolds. A respect is gained. A relationship forms.

There are about 200 species of Rumex, or dock plants. The species people see often is rumex obtusifolius, broad leaf dock (sometimes called bitter dock). Also rumex crispus, curly dock (sometimes called yellow dock). Common names change from place to place so having a good understanding of identification and scientific name of these plants is important. 

In the spring, our bitter dock is some of the first greenery seen popping it’s leaves out of the leaf litter. It is a lovely welcoming confirmation that spring is near. These young, small leaves can be gathered and sautéed as greens. They are high in oxalic acid (as is spinach), so always with anything, eat in moderation. Docks are also in the same family as rhubarb and buckwheat. 

We have a large patch that grows where we manage the Japanese knotweed. Docks love disturbed soil and can survive in different soil and light conditions which is probably what gained them their “weed badge”. Last week the seeds were out with their papery chaff (husk around seed). Some seeds green and red in color, but not all had that crimson red (that’s why our flour is not as red as some dock flours). 


I gathered up an arms full of seed stalks and returned inside. I pulled the leaves off each stalk (saved them for a medicinal oil infusion) while in doing so, I checked for critters. Split the arm full amount into four tied bunches, and hung to dry for almost a week. 

Once dry, I very easily striped the seeds and chaff off each branch and into a bowl. I didn’t bother with separating the chaff from the seeds. Better for fiber! You can roast these in a cast iron over medium to low heat, I did not this time. Then, using a grinder, grind your chaff and seeds and keep in a sealed container.


Dock flour is a great “add in” with flour. Great for pancakes, breads, breading, and thickener. I usually split the measuring of the flour in half in a recipe. Half flour, half dock flour. It will add a grainy texture to recipes like whole grain. Here is the pancake recipe we enjoy.


Dock Flour Pancakes

Makes 3 medium pancakes

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup dock flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder 

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk or milk

1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable or olive oil


Mix ingredients in a bowl and pour into a heated oiled pan. Wait for bubbles to form in center and flip. Cook until golden. Enjoy! 

Get creative with dock flour and please share!




Backyard Rewilding can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Plantago major: Nature’s Backyard Medicine

Plantago major. Common plantain. Step outside, look down and you will see it growing amongst the grass and dandelions. It was brought here to America by the early settlers. Used by European herbalists for centuries. The Native Americans called it “white mans footprint”. It grew everywhere the white man disturbed. The Anglo Saxon called it “weybraede” meaning “mother of herbs”.


It is known for its drawing agent properties. It has the ability to draw out infections, dirt, pus, mucous, even splinters. A poultice of the leaves can be applied directly to the skin for wounds, bug bites, stings, rashes, even poison ivy. It has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antioxidant properties. It is what I consider Mother Nature’s antibacterial ointment.


Last week while washing dishes in the sink, I broke a glass. Sliced the side of my left hand. It was a deep cut. First I grabbed a paper towel and dumped some of my yarrow infused oil on it. Then applied the towel to the wound. The oil hadn’t infused long enough yet (only 3 weeks) so to be safe I ran outside and gathered some fresh yarrow and plantain and made it into a poultice (one handed!). I then applied it to the wound. If it didn’t stop bleeding I told my self there may be a trip to the ER. Yarrow is known for stopping bleeding as is plantain. In about 10 minutes the bleeding stopped. I left the poultice on my cut under the paper towel for about an hr. Then cleaned away the plant material. I applied my plantain healing salve and taped it up with gauze. I checked on it hourly. The amazing thing was the lack of pain. I’ve cut myself badly before, remembering the pain. There was little if any. In two days the wound was closed (I did use butterfly bandages). I continued to apply the plantain salve without a bandage. Will it scar? Probably. Is it tender? Of course. Did I heal myself with plants found right outside my door growing under our feet? Yes. 

It is our go to “boo boo” medicine. Not only is it medicinal, it’s edible. Obviously only harvest from places not touched by pesticides, weed killers, or road sides. The young leaves can be added to salads raw or sautéed like spinach. Even made into a pesto or used like a lettuce wrap. It’s seeds can be harvested and ground into a flour (this is a little more tedious). 

Even my 3 and a half year old is learning the benefits from the plants around her. Playing outside she scraped herself on a stick. Comes up crying to me. Says “Mom, my foot, I cut it!” I asked her, “How can one make it better?” The light bulb goes off in her head, “plantain!” Right away, she scans the ground. She heads over to a patch. She picks a leaf. She kisses it. She knows this amazing, giving plant, but always confirms identification with me. That is our way. She chews it up. Spits it out and applies it to her scratch. “It’s better now Mom.” She is all smiles. She feels it. It’s just natural. A primitive feeling. 


Teaching young children about the life that lives all around them is something that runs deep in our being. From the knowing of the black capped chickadee call above letting out its territorial call, to the young tree frog saved from a mower’s blade with the help of being in wide angle vision. If you teach them to be AWARE, they will show you everyday their sponge like knowledge.

Some parents are proud about trophies and grades (that’s great too). But this makes me one proud Momma. 💚🌿

Plantain Healing Salve

Gather fresh chopped plantain leaves in a jar. Cover with olive oil. Infused for 4-6 weeks. Strain. Place a clean, empty mason jar in a pan half filled with water. Add your oil and beeswax. Heat slowly. I use a 4:1 ratio, oil to beeswax. I usually eyeball this. Stir with a metal skewer. Once melted pour into a container of choice. Let cool. Enjoy!

Backyard Rewilding can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Backyard Gruit Beer

When I can create a beer using plants foraged right in my backyard I feel a pull to research more. Before hops, there was gruit (German for herb). A herbal blend of plants that was used for beer making in the Middle Ages. The most common plants used in herbal gruit was myrica gale, ground ivy, yarrow, mugwort, rosemary and heather. Gruit is ancient dating back thousands of years. Until about 500 years ago when there was a German beer purity law introduced called Reinheitsgebot. This stated that one could only use water, hops, barley and yeast when creating beer.  Gruit disappeared slowly. Until recently with the micro brewery explosion, gruit beer is gaining popularity again. Even Dogfish Head Craft Brewery came out with a gruit beer called Kvasir. Dogfish Head says it was developed with the help of chemical, botanical and pollen evidence taken from a 3,500‐year‐old Danish drinking vessel. The vessel, made of birch bark, that was found in the tomb of a leather‐clad woman that was probably an upper-class dancer or priestess. The analysis pointed to the ingredients used in this unique brew: wheat, lingonberries, cranberries, myrica gale, yarrow, honey and birch syrup.

This recipe was inspired by Pascal Baudar. (Google him up or follow him. He is pretty awesome.) All the ingredients except for the sweet gale (found at a friend’s Maine camp) and ale yeast were foraged right in our backyard. This recipe can be changed to work with wild medicinal and edible plants in your region or backyard. Also there are many great authors and books out there like, “Herbal Healing Beers” by Stephen Harrod Buhner. “Ancient Brews: rediscovered and Recreated” by Dr. Patrick McGovern and “The New Wildcrafted Cuisine: Exploring the Exotic Gastronomy of Local Terroir” by Pascal Baudar.

1 gallon water (local spring if you have one nearby)
2 1/2 cups homemade backyard Maple syrup

3 tbsp sweet gale (Myrica gale)

1 cup Ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea)

1/2 cup Japanese knotweed skin

3 tbsps Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

6 sprigs of Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

1/2 cup Common yellow wood sorrel (sour lemon apple flavor)

Boil for about 30 minutes, cool, strain and add yeast. Ferment for 10 days. Finish with bottling, priming and resting.
Enjoy beer like your ancestors before you did.

The Middle of Everywhere


Out in the “middle of everywhere”. There is a “pull” that guides me. Some days it’s a pull to wildlife. A moth hitching a ride on my hat or a common yellow throat following me around on a wetland path. Some days it’s the plants. Like today. I grabbed my foraging bags and knife. I walked. I listened. I took a path, stopped. Turned around. Found a deer run. Followed it. Stalked through the poison ivy. Took a break. Enjoyed some yarrow tea. Checked for ticks. Continued, until I found it. I’m aware. My senses are heightened. The deer flys an mosquitos are buzzing. A bull frog croaks. But all seems quiet. A cattail wetland emerges. The water is low enough to venture into and harvest a hand full of the flowering spikes. I back out. Growing on the edge, high bush blue berries are ripening. I whisper a thank you. Again, gather a handful. Some so high up on the old growth ones, I leave them for the birds. 

I follow my path back into the understory. Back to the abandoned closed access road. Grass, invasives and native plants are taking back the landscape. Raspberries creep into the the path. A large grass spider sits on a stem as I gather the leaves and berries around him. A yellow wild flower patch catches my eye. St. John’s wort. I harvest some to dry or infuse later for the medicine cabinet. Another deer run leads to a small clearing. Milkweed, yarrow, native strawberries mixed in with poison ivy. I gather a small portion of milkweed flowers to pickle later in the afternoon. Leave enough for the monarchs. The humidity is increasing. The scent of sweet fern floods my nostrils. I cut some branches to dry for tea later and head on my way out. That “pull” tells me, “that is enough”. I have a sense of fulfillment. A bag full of food and medicine. The primitive satisfaction awakens me. I whisper “thank you” into the air. Now, home I go to learn from my bounty.