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Re: [fukuoka_farming] acorns

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  • sinniss@shaw.ca
    There is but one oak species native to my area, (Quercus garryana). I was once told that the acorns are quite sweet and mild, as acorns go, so I ve tried them
    Message 1 of 14 , Dec 17, 2003
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      There is but one oak species native to my area, (Quercus garryana). I
      was once told that the acorns are quite sweet and mild, as acorns go, so
      I've tried them on occasion, two or three at a time. They do seem
      relatively mild, but only compared to other acorns. Aboriginal people
      here ate them. The acorns can even be eaten raw if you don't mind bitter
      food and you don't eat too many, but the usual practice was to steam,
      boil, or roast the acorns for a very long time to make them more
      palatable. Further south, in Oregon and California, there were more
      elaborate leaching methods. I've heard people in other parts of the
      world used treatment with mineral clay, with the same purpose of
      removing tannins. If nobody else on the list has it to hand I can dig up
      the reference, but I haven't tried those methods myself, so the
      information would be second or third hand. I'd try Bill Mollison's book
      on the topic of food preparation (if memory is correct, I think it was
      called something like "The Big Book of Fermentation")

      I understand that oaks vary quite a bit in their tannin content, even
      within a species (Jamie, that would be why you found some trees better
      than others). Breeding from these "sweet" oaks would be quite a project,
      though, partly because there are many different genes controlling tannin
      content and partly because oak tree generations are so long. Not so much
      that our ancestors "slipped up", but that the project is a bit beyond
      the usual human time horizons.

      Acorn flour is apparently higher in fats and protein than grains, though
      I don't have anything on the amino acid profile. Quite tasty, too. One
      day I may try making some, but it sounds like quite a lot of work for
      what you get.

      Stephen

      jamie wrote:

      > Hello everyone, I've spent some of the last month tasting acorns from
      > the
      > many oaks in this area inspired by Russel Smith's 'Tree Crops'. While
      > there
      > have been many that have been ferociously bitter there have equally
      > been
      > those not far from palatable and at least 2 trees where the acorn can
      > be
      > eaten out of hand where the taste is not disimilar to chestnuts
      > (perhaps
      > without quite the same sweetness). The main species are Quercus ilex
      > and Q.
      > kermes, with Q.ilex the most palatable.
      >
      > I'm wondering if others are using their own native acorns and how they
      >
      > prepare and use them. I'm also wondering if there is a change in taste
      >
      > dependent upon the yearly climatic factors or whether taste
      > (especially
      > sweetness and tannin content remain fairly constant). If anyone can
      > point me
      > to online information or other books discussing acorns I'd appreciate
      > it.
      >
      > Jamie
      > Souscayrous
      >
      >
      >
      > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
      > fukuoka_farming-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > ---------------------------------------------------------------
      > Yahoo! Groups Links
      >
      > * To visit your group on the web, go to:
      > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fukuoka_farming/
      >
      > * To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
      > fukuoka_farming-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
      >
      > * Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of
      > Service.
      >
    • jamie
      Hello everyone, thanks for all the replies on acorns. I d not thought acorns were toxic, just sometimes extremely bitter. Russell Smith talks about people in
      Message 2 of 14 , Dec 18, 2003
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        Hello everyone, thanks for all the replies on acorns.

        I'd not thought acorns were toxic, just sometimes extremely bitter. Russell
        Smith talks about people in Spain and Portugal eating acorns out of hand
        from the trees without mention of any adverse effects, even relating that
        they were sold alongside sweet chestnuts at markets.

        Perhaps the confusion here is due to two distinct misapprehensions: firstly,
        the role of tannin; tannin is not toxic to humans, especially as this is the
        bitter element in certain foodstuffs and therefore makes food of high tannin
        content unpalatable - it is the bitterness found in tea that has stewed too
        long. It is soluble in water, which is no doubt why people leach tannin-rich
        acorns before preparation for food, thereby making acorns a simple and
        abundant food for humans. Secondly, the different oak species; as mentioned
        there is great diversity within the same species and therefore between
        species there will no doubt be even greater diversity which might also
        entail the possibilities of other substances that might be toxic. Therefore,
        as with all wild foods, it is reccommended to taste only a small amount of
        unknown toxicity before preparing larger quantities for consumption. I've
        probably had 10 acorns in one day with no ill effects, but then these were
        not bitter at all.

        My interest in acorns is that Q. ilex is the local climax hardwood (in
        association with box, Buxus semprevirens) and therefore if you leave the
        land to itself it will eventually pass through successive stages of plants
        until finally the oak/box create a 'stable' forest. Imagine selecting and
        scattering only the most palatable acorns across this region, which is only
        now beginning the succession back to forest because the herds of sheep and
        goats no longer graze the higher hills and ridges, and within 20 years you
        would have a staple food available simply through harvesting the acorns: No
        ploughing, No fertilizers, No pesticides, No pruning, No leaching...through
        only the lightest human intervention (selecting the acorns to scatter) the
        Corbières, Fenouillèdes and the foothills of the Pyrenées could supply a
        large part of France's needs. Of course, this could also be applied to
        other countries in the Mediterannean basin, where Q. ilex is also the climax
        hardwood - but then, I suspect this is exactly what Fukuoka and Panos had in
        mind with their Greenbelt Southern Europe Project!

        Such forests would not only supply food but help establish and stabilise the
        most biodiverse life and bring rain back to these semi-arid lands (as
        Fukuoka says rain falls up from the ground - the reason there is so little
        rain in california is because of the denudation of the native flora,
        revegetate the hills and the rains will return).

        By doing nothing (except scattering seed) we feed ourselves with no effort
        and begin to heal the scars our agriculture has left on nature. And while I
        feel faintly ridiculous sounding, no doubt, like some obsessed Old Testament
        Prophet, this forest regrowth is happening before my eyes at Souscayrous,
        making my attempts at market gardening seem even more insignificant than I
        previously suspected.

        For those interested in such detail here is a nutritional analysis of acorns
        as compared to cornmeal and wheat flour taken from Russell Smith's book
        (note particularly acorns fat content). The percentages below relate to
        acorns (unleached California Valley White Oak), cornmeal and wheat flour
        respectively;

        Water 8.7 12.5 11.5
        Ash 2 1 0.5
        Fat 18.6 1.9 1
        Protein 5.7 9.2 11.4
        Carbohydrate65 74.4 75.4
        Fibre ND 1 0.2
        Tannin 6.63 ND ND

        ND means No Data

        And to finish off my hymn to the acorn here's an old Spanish poem (by
        Wiffens Garcillasso I believe) that suggests the role of acorns in everyday
        life some centuries ago:

        Hast thou forgotten, too,
        Childhood's sweet sports, whence first my passion grew,
        When from the bowery ilex I shook down
        It's autumn fruit which from the crag's high crown
        We tasted, sitting chattering side by side,
        Who climbed trees swinging o'er the hoarse deep tide,
        And poured into thy lap, or at thy feet,
        Their kernel's nuts, sweetest of the sweet.


        Jamie
        Souscayrous


        -----Original Message-----
        From: sinniss@... [mailto:sinniss@...]
        Sent: jeudi 18 décembre 2003 06:21
        To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: Re: [fukuoka_farming] acorns


        There is but one oak species native to my area, (Quercus garryana). I
        was once told that the acorns are quite sweet and mild, as acorns go, so
        I've tried them on occasion, two or three at a time. They do seem
        relatively mild, but only compared to other acorns. Aboriginal people
        here ate them. The acorns can even be eaten raw if you don't mind bitter
        food and you don't eat too many, but the usual practice was to steam,
        boil, or roast the acorns for a very long time to make them more
        palatable. Further south, in Oregon and California, there were more
        elaborate leaching methods. I've heard people in other parts of the
        world used treatment with mineral clay, with the same purpose of
        removing tannins. If nobody else on the list has it to hand I can dig up
        the reference, but I haven't tried those methods myself, so the
        information would be second or third hand. I'd try Bill Mollison's book
        on the topic of food preparation (if memory is correct, I think it was
        called something like "The Big Book of Fermentation")

        I understand that oaks vary quite a bit in their tannin content, even
        within a species (Jamie, that would be why you found some trees better
        than others). Breeding from these "sweet" oaks would be quite a project,
        though, partly because there are many different genes controlling tannin
        content and partly because oak tree generations are so long. Not so much
        that our ancestors "slipped up", but that the project is a bit beyond
        the usual human time horizons.

        Acorn flour is apparently higher in fats and protein than grains, though
        I don't have anything on the amino acid profile. Quite tasty, too. One
        day I may try making some, but it sounds like quite a lot of work for
        what you get.

        Stephen

        jamie wrote:

        > Hello everyone, I've spent some of the last month tasting acorns from
        > the
        > many oaks in this area inspired by Russel Smith's 'Tree Crops'. While
        > there
        > have been many that have been ferociously bitter there have equally
        > been
        > those not far from palatable and at least 2 trees where the acorn can
        > be
        > eaten out of hand where the taste is not disimilar to chestnuts
        > (perhaps
        > without quite the same sweetness). The main species are Quercus ilex
        > and Q.
        > kermes, with Q.ilex the most palatable.
        >
        > I'm wondering if others are using their own native acorns and how they
        >
        > prepare and use them. I'm also wondering if there is a change in taste
        >
        > dependent upon the yearly climatic factors or whether taste
        > (especially
        > sweetness and tannin content remain fairly constant). If anyone can
        > point me
        > to online information or other books discussing acorns I'd appreciate
        > it.
        >
        > Jamie
        > Souscayrous
        >
        >
        >
        > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
        > fukuoka_farming-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
        >
        >
        >
        >
        > ---------------------------------------------------------------
        > Yahoo! Groups Links
        >
        > * To visit your group on the web, go to:
        > http://groups.yahoo.com/group/fukuoka_farming/
        >
        > * To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
        > fukuoka_farming-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
        >
        > * Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to the Yahoo! Terms of
        > Service.
        >


        To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
        fukuoka_farming-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com



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      • AaronBrachfeld@aol.com
        The dream of acorns as a staple is not new. Many native tribes throughout North America consumed Acorns: Acorn flour, acorn butter, stewed acorns, roasted
        Message 3 of 14 , Dec 18, 2003
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          The dream of acorns as a staple is not new. Many native tribes throughout North America consumed Acorns: Acorn flour, acorn butter, stewed acorns, roasted acorns, etc. etc.

          The only problem with acorns is that they are very hard to mechanically harvest. This is primarily why they have fallen out of favor with many producers.

          --Aaron Brachfeld, Colorado
        • jamie
          Hello Aaron, If I may change what you write slightly: the use of acorns as a staple food is not a dream as the North American Indians showed. The only problem
          Message 4 of 14 , Dec 19, 2003
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            Hello Aaron, If I may change what you write slightly: the use of acorns as a
            staple food is not a dream as the North American Indians showed.

            The only problem with harvesting acorns is when mankind creates an
            environment where 'he' becomes the producer (and not nature, with all the
            paraphenalia of modern farming that that entails) and tries to grow and
            harvest them mechanically.

            Acorns have primarily fallen out of favour because of the dream of
            mechanisation.

            Jamie

            -----Original Message-----
            From: AaronBrachfeld@... [mailto:AaronBrachfeld@...]
            Sent: jeudi 18 décembre 2003 18:36
            To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: Re: [fukuoka_farming] acorns


            The dream of acorns as a staple is not new. Many native tribes throughout
            North America consumed Acorns: Acorn flour, acorn butter, stewed acorns,
            roasted acorns, etc. etc.

            The only problem with acorns is that they are very hard to mechanically
            harvest. This is primarily why they have fallen out of favor with many
            producers.

            --Aaron Brachfeld, Colorado

            To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
            fukuoka_farming-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com



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            To visit your group on the web, go to:
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          • Ingrid Bauer/Jean-Claude Catry
            jamie do you have a nutritional chart for comparaison with chestnut or beech ? did acorn in france was as widelly used as chestnut ? would be interested to
            Message 5 of 14 , Dec 20, 2003
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              jamie
              do you have a nutritional chart for comparaison with chestnut or beech ?

              did acorn in france was as widelly used as chestnut ? would be interested to get some seeds of your sweet acorn.

              jean-claude


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • jamie
              Hello Jean-Claude, I ll be happy to send you through some of the sweet acorns (taste tested by Anne, my wife, who gave them her seal of approval and she s far
              Message 6 of 14 , Dec 21, 2003
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                Hello Jean-Claude, I'll be happy to send you through some of the sweet
                acorns (taste tested by Anne, my wife, who gave them her seal of approval
                and she's far less zealous in her appreciation of wild foods than I). Let me
                know your address off-list and I'll send them over to you. Obviously, the
                offer holds good for anyone else who wants to try some Quercus ilex var.
                Ballota(?).

                Below I'm including some details comparing acorns, sweet chestnuts and
                potatoes from the work of Marc Bonfils. I'm currently working with other
                members of Association Las Encantadas to put Marc's work up on the internet
                (the work is currently available in printed form only at no little cost).
                Most of the work is in French so might be of especial interest to you.

                acorns chestnuts potatoes
                water 8.7-44.6 ND ND
                Carbohydrates 32.7-89.7 40 20
                Proteins 2.3-8.6 4 1.8-2
                Fats 1.1-31.3 2.6 0.5
                tannins 0.1-8.8 ND ND
                Kcal/100g 265-577 ND ND

                I'll keep you informed of developments.

                Jamie



                -----Original Message-----
                From: Ingrid Bauer/Jean-Claude Catry [mailto:instinct@...]
                Sent: samedi 20 décembre 2003 17:56
                To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
                Subject: Re: [fukuoka_farming] acorns



                jamie
                do you have a nutritional chart for comparaison with chestnut or beech ?

                did acorn in france was as widelly used as chestnut ? would be interested
                to get some seeds of your sweet acorn.

                jean-claude


                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


                To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
                fukuoka_farming-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com




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                To visit your group on the web, go to:
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              • Ingrid Bauer/Jean-Claude Catry
                jaimie i don t know your email adress jean-claude [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                Message 7 of 14 , Dec 21, 2003
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                  jaimie i don't know your email adress
                  jean-claude



                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • sinniss@shaw.ca
                  Hello all, I think the oak tree project is a wonderful idea. Some thoughts on this. From recent posts (thanks for these!), it looks as if selecting for
                  Message 8 of 14 , Dec 23, 2003
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                    Hello all,

                    I think the oak tree project is a wonderful idea. Some thoughts on this.

                    From recent posts (thanks for these!), it looks as if selecting for
                    "sweeter" acorns already has taken place, at least in parts of Europe,
                    even though it is over a span of generations (as it would need to be)
                    and the process isn't complete yet. This is good news, because the
                    project needs that head-start.

                    The difficulty, as I understand it, is that crossing two "sweet" oaks
                    doesn't necessarily give you more sweet acorns from the next generation.
                    Suppose there are a dozen different genes for tannin production. Unless
                    the two trees in question are sweet because of the same gene, then when
                    you cross them you are back to the standard level of tannin production
                    (tree A was sweet because of it's unusual on gene 3, tree B was sweet
                    because it is unusual on gene 8; when you cross them you get a tree that
                    is typical at both genes). If I'm not explaining this well, perhaps one
                    of the plant-breeding people on this list can say it a better. The point
                    is that if you stay at it for a large number of oak generations you will
                    get there, but it's not like breeding for non-bitter almonds (cyanide
                    content in almonds is governed by fewer genes, or maybe just one). Ten
                    plus years per generation of oaks, so this is a long term project. Worth
                    it, though, in the end, and besides, even the less desireable acorns can
                    be eaten if they are leached first.

                    Tannins are indeed harmful in quantity, like anything else, and (though
                    I've not seen it myself) it is possible make yourself sick with too many
                    bitter acorns. Shuts down the digestive stystem, and hard on the kidneys
                    too. That unpleasant taste is a warning worth heeding. Yes, some dilute
                    tannin in your tea or your greens or whatever is fine, but those large
                    quantities of tannins are there precisely to prevent the all the acorns
                    from being eaten, whether by insects, pigs, or humans (otherwise, no
                    next generation of oak trees). So, whether by treating the acorns or
                    breeding the trees, you need to be eating a low tannin acorn meal to
                    stay healthy if you want to make it a staple in your diet.

                    Leaving the oak trees entirely to breed alone, without doing any
                    selection, could lead back to bitter acorns. The tannins are there
                    because they give the tree some advantage (or possibly they are there as
                    a side effect of something else that gives the tree a survival
                    advantage). Does this mean that the sweeter trees are the weaker trees?
                    Possibly.

                    I'll check some of my local native oaks (Q. garryana) for edible acorns
                    again, and if I find something interesting I'll let you all know
                    (Jean-Claude, have you sampled any? there should be some in your area as
                    well). Perhaps there are some better trees (better, that is, from the
                    point of view of a human). Oaks are only a part of the climax forest in
                    these parts, and a small one, so the sample size is small. Perhaps some
                    Q. ilex imports will be necessary for a starting point instead;
                    according to reference books they will grow here.

                    I have another idea towards edible forests, but it belongs in another
                    post.

                    Stephen
                  • jamie
                    Hello everyone, I should make it clear that my acorn interest comes directly from J. Russell Smith s Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture (originally published
                    Message 9 of 14 , Dec 23, 2003
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                      Hello everyone, I should make it clear that my acorn interest comes directly
                      from J. Russell Smith's 'Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture'(originally
                      published in 1929), but that his sources are those referred to recently by
                      Francisco, the 'dehesa' practice of cork (Q. suber) and holm oaks (Q. ilex)
                      to provide both 'cork and pork' sustainably.

                      I can't unfortunately briefly summarise his comments as there are more than
                      50 pages on oaks in the book and it does lack the practical farming detail
                      hinted at by Francisco. Still, there are little gems like the following
                      that, with some personal experience and other similar work that I've come
                      across in tropical climates, temperate forest gardens and the notes of Marc
                      Bonfils (who I learnt today is alive and well and living in Provence)
                      suggest a strong lead for future work:

                      "In some sections of Spain and Portugal, the young ilex trees are allowed to
                      grow where they have by chance sprung up in the fields. Around and under the
                      trees the machineless cultivation of wheat and beans, barley and hay, goes
                      on just the same. This combination of crops gives a beautiful parklike
                      landscape. The cultivation helps the oaks make acorns, and after the grains
                      and other crops are harvested, the hogs are turned in to gather the mast
                      crop."p169

                      As to the 'genetic' variability suggested by Stephen I think the 'sweetness'
                      is a stable factor and the only selection needed is for taste (ie the oaks
                      of acorns come true, AKA homozygous). This doesn't mean that there wont be
                      some differences between parents and offspring, only that they wont be as
                      variable as with some fruit. If you place 'ballota' oaks together you're
                      likely to increase your chances of similar offspring but then you loose the
                      genetic diversity for long term stability. For John's idea I'd suggest using
                      'sweet' oaks from as many sources as possible to set the whole project in
                      train and be around for the next several hundred years to ensure good
                      selection. The acorns I'm offering come from a tree that is on communal land
                      just a few metres from Souscayrous and is 'wild'. It's not too old and
                      hasn't produced too many acorns yet (200-300 at a guess) - and no John,
                      we're not too late as there were still many on the tree, or at least there
                      were but the recent wind will have brought down many and it will depend on
                      whether the herd of goats and sheep beat me to them tomorrow!

                      As to Q. garryana, Smith says this: 'One tree noted produced five hundred
                      pounds of acorns, another six hundred pounds. A third, rather small,
                      produced two bushels. Crops occur at intervals of from three to four years.
                      Fruit is frequently killed by frosts.' This is under forage crop and not for
                      human consumption, though leaching would work.

                      Jamie
                      Souscayrous


                      -----Original Message-----
                      From: sinniss@... [mailto:sinniss@...]
                      Sent: mardi 23 décembre 2003 16:47
                      To: fukuoka_farming@yahoogroups.com
                      Subject: Re: [fukuoka_farming] acorns


                      Hello all,

                      I think the oak tree project is a wonderful idea. Some thoughts on this.

                      From recent posts (thanks for these!), it looks as if selecting for
                      "sweeter" acorns already has taken place, at least in parts of Europe,
                      even though it is over a span of generations (as it would need to be)
                      and the process isn't complete yet. This is good news, because the
                      project needs that head-start.

                      The difficulty, as I understand it, is that crossing two "sweet" oaks
                      doesn't necessarily give you more sweet acorns from the next generation.
                      Suppose there are a dozen different genes for tannin production. Unless
                      the two trees in question are sweet because of the same gene, then when
                      you cross them you are back to the standard level of tannin production
                      (tree A was sweet because of it's unusual on gene 3, tree B was sweet
                      because it is unusual on gene 8; when you cross them you get a tree that
                      is typical at both genes). If I'm not explaining this well, perhaps one
                      of the plant-breeding people on this list can say it a better. The point
                      is that if you stay at it for a large number of oak generations you will
                      get there, but it's not like breeding for non-bitter almonds (cyanide
                      content in almonds is governed by fewer genes, or maybe just one). Ten
                      plus years per generation of oaks, so this is a long term project. Worth
                      it, though, in the end, and besides, even the less desireable acorns can
                      be eaten if they are leached first.

                      Tannins are indeed harmful in quantity, like anything else, and (though
                      I've not seen it myself) it is possible make yourself sick with too many
                      bitter acorns. Shuts down the digestive stystem, and hard on the kidneys
                      too. That unpleasant taste is a warning worth heeding. Yes, some dilute
                      tannin in your tea or your greens or whatever is fine, but those large
                      quantities of tannins are there precisely to prevent the all the acorns
                      from being eaten, whether by insects, pigs, or humans (otherwise, no
                      next generation of oak trees). So, whether by treating the acorns or
                      breeding the trees, you need to be eating a low tannin acorn meal to
                      stay healthy if you want to make it a staple in your diet.

                      Leaving the oak trees entirely to breed alone, without doing any
                      selection, could lead back to bitter acorns. The tannins are there
                      because they give the tree some advantage (or possibly they are there as
                      a side effect of something else that gives the tree a survival
                      advantage). Does this mean that the sweeter trees are the weaker trees?
                      Possibly.

                      I'll check some of my local native oaks (Q. garryana) for edible acorns
                      again, and if I find something interesting I'll let you all know
                      (Jean-Claude, have you sampled any? there should be some in your area as
                      well). Perhaps there are some better trees (better, that is, from the
                      point of view of a human). Oaks are only a part of the climax forest in
                      these parts, and a small one, so the sample size is small. Perhaps some
                      Q. ilex imports will be necessary for a starting point instead;
                      according to reference books they will grow here.

                      I have another idea towards edible forests, but it belongs in another
                      post.

                      Stephen





                      Yahoo! Groups Links

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                    • Ingrid Bauer/Jean-Claude Catry
                      (Jean-Claude, have you sampled any? there should be some in your area as well). yes just once because i eat only raw foods and assume they will be too
                      Message 10 of 14 , Dec 24, 2003
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                        (Jean-Claude, have you sampled any? there should be some in your area as
                        well). \
                        yes just once because i eat only raw foods and assume they will be too bitter as the one i tried was . But yes we manage to save may be the biggest stand of oak trees in bc from developpers . it is now an ecological reserve .

                        if you want pictures of old ones see . i am the one sitting in their mossy fork.
                        http://www.rdcraig.com/bigtrees/GOak2.HTM
                        http://www.rdcraig.com/bigtrees/GOak1.HTM
                        i have one tree on my property that is starting to be taken over by firs .i planted few more .
                        the fruit is small in comparaison of the fruits of oak in France .
                        i had the view on my previous land to plant acorns chestnut and other nuts to have wild boars underneath .

                        jean-claude




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