It was roughly eight years ago that I lay awake at night listening to the arrhythmic beat of falling acorns against the back deck of the house. It was that time of year again, and a real mess to sweep up every day along with the oak leaves and massive spider webs. I had been struggling with a tiny little garden of potted plants along the side of the house (which I killed every single year) and wishing I could grow more of my own food when I remembered a fourth grade field trip. It was there that I first learned that acorns are not only edible, but were once a staple in the diet of the people who lived in California.
The guide had asked for volunteers to guess how acorns were prepared, and my hand shot up. Here's what I remember: you have to grind up the acorns and then strain them repeatedly with water until the bitter tannins leach out.
With all the excitement about eating locally and growing your own food, it seemed like I'd be a step ahead if I could just cook and eat what actually grows naturally. It's one shade classier than dumpster diving, and it doesn't even require much preparedness on my part, just a willingness to eat. I did some research back then, or at least a google search, but couldn't find much information on how to feed my family an acorn-based diet. Another dream dead, but hold your tears...
Last June I found the answer to my dilemma on a visit to the nature center at Big Tree in Calaveras County, home to the famous jumping frog contest. There I discovered a book, Living Wild: Gardening, Cooking and Healing with Native Plants of California by Alicia Funk and Karin Kaufman. Wow. I'm obsessed, and you will be too.
There are lots of acorn recipes, though the authors seem to prefer the term "oak nut". This threw me off initially, but I'm pretty sure an oak nut by any other name is really an acorn. Acorn muffins, acorn flatbread, and three different methods to leach out the bitter tannins.
But enough about acorns, because apparently those bounce on the deck in the fall. In summer you can enjoy recipes like manzanita berry muffins, wild lilac tea, and elderberry soda. There are recipes for cattail hearts, bay leaves and bay tree nuts, both of which also once littered my deck. Unfortunately, I've moved now and have a garden instead of a deck covered in delectable native edibles. Timing is rarely perfect in life.
The second book in my post zombie-apocalypse arsenal is an old copy of The Joy of Cooking. You may have one too on a dusty shelf in your garage, and if you have the opportunity, take a look at the chapter on wild game. It's wonderful and terrible. Don't believe me? Take a look below at what I believe is the 1964 edition. It's killer. I find the gloves and lace-up boots particularly gruesome.
I haven't tried any of the recipes yet. YET. But one day I'll get around to it, and hopefully before we find out that zombies are real and the government has been struggling unsuccessfully to keep them quarantined. Someday while other people are out thieving and experimenting with cannibalism, I will be enjoying cattail heart soup, sunflower buds, oak nut flatbread, and roast squirrel under a canopy of the stars.
Armed with whatever you use to fend off zombies of course.
I love trying new foods, cooking, and gardening. I hope to share these experiences on this site. Thanks for taking a look!