Local wild forager and Nature Place activity leader Paul Tappenden tells us what’s wild and edible in and around our area.
So, what does a forager do at this time of year? Well, even though there are still a few edible species to be harvested, much of my energies have been concentrated on making flour and baking. My main ingredient is the acorn. During October and November I was out and about gathering bagfuls of these abundant wild nuts.
At that time they are rather hard to open as the shells clung to the nut meat. However, after a few weeks of drying, they open more easily. Once I have a nice pile of shelled acorns, the next task is to remove the tannins that make them taste so bitter. The easiest way to do this is by boiling the chopped nuts in several changes of water until they become more palatable. At this point I put them on trays in the oven and dehydrate them. The final stage is to grind them to a powder. I’ve found that a coffee grinder does the trick pretty well.
This year, I decided to experiment with baking. I used my acorn flour to make empanadas, fruit and nut cookies, date nut bread and an apple pie for Thanksgiving. They were all a big success. So much so, in fact, that I’ve made several batches of cookies since. A nice thing about acorn flour is that it contains no gluten, so my cookies are ideal for anyone with celiac disease or a gluten allergy.
I had also gathered a lot of black walnuts and shagbark hickory nuts, which I used in the cookies and acorn bread, so not only were they delicious but really nutritious.
Paul Tappenden is the Rockland Forager. He leads identification walks once a month in our area. See regularly updated blogs, videos, events, and what he and other foragers, herbalists, and naturalists are up to at www.suburbanforagers.com.