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RE: [fukuoka_farming] acorns

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  • 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 1 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
      >
      >
      >
      >
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      >


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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 2 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 3 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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        • 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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 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 8 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





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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 9 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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