A mature oak can produce twenty-nine thousand acorns a year. Each has the chance to sustain our people, heal the world some, and spread where it can.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Wild Eating Challenge Conclusion

After just over three weeks, I've decided to end my wild/gardened food experiment. It wasn't for any lack of food or blandness; over the past three weeks I've had the opportunities to try a number of foods I might not have thought of, tasted delicious delicacies and used wild foods in ways that I'd never expected. I've had the opportunity to dine on barbecued snapping turtle, and been able to make burdock roots into something quite like kettle cooked chips, after which I dipped them in autumn olive ketchup. I even had sorbet for desert one night, with all wild ingredients (and garnish, too).

The reason for stopping now is completely social: my network of friends and family do not, for the most part, eat a lot of wild food. Many are willing, but don't partake often. More importantly, many of our traditions are, at this time, built on certain foods. Barbecue season is coming up, and many gatherings revolve around burgers, hotdogs, and delicious delicious marinated steak. I won't lie and say that temptation isn't a factor. But most of all I don't want this to get in the way of me and my community, and I don't want it to interfere with my usual observation of the reciprocal nature of hospitality. In case you didn't notice, I'm really into the whole community thing. Some of my friends have been super hospitable and been great aid to my wild eating while I stay with them (shout out to Greg and Dena!). But just this weekend alone, I have planned four gatherings at which eating non-wild food is the focus.

My promise to everyone who reads the blog, or was at all interested, is that I'll continue to eat a lot of wild food, and post discoveries, observations, and recipes here. I'll still make it clear how great and possible wild eating is. And I'll help you figure this all out.

And I'm bound to get some great recipes that include wild food now, as I'm ordering some crayfish traps. Being able to mix wild and non-wild ingredients will certainly add to my repetoire; this weekend I intend to make some venison lumpia, maybe with a bit of mustard greens inside.

Burdock chips:

Dig up a burdock root. This involves a lot of digging around the base of the plant, and in my experience it means an ever-widening, ever-deepening hole until you can easily pull the root out. Don't tug too hard, especially early on, because you'll just end up breaking it and losing most of the root.

Wash the root thoroughly, unless you like gritty dirt in your food. You can peel away the outer skin, but I don't recommend it. I don't think it tastes bad or anything, and it's highly nutritious.

Slice the root as thinly as possible perpendicular to the length of the root to severe the long fibers. Leaving the long fibers intact will just make it hard to chew. This can be hard, but practice makes it easier.

Throw your chips in a pan full of your favorite cooking oil, already heated. If your favorite cooking oil is soy or corn, get a new favorite cooking oil.

Fry until crispy. Salt to liking, preferably with raw sea salt.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Wild/Local Food Challenge!

My partner has been suggesting that I do some posts about more physical things, such as step-by-step tutorials and updates about my own projects and activities. After all, telling people why they need to live sustainably and in free feral groups just doesn't cut it if you can't at least give hints on how to do so. Granted, there are a lot of other places to get that information, and I'm glad to link to them as well.

So I'm finally taking her advice, since I decided to take it upon myself to see if I'm up to the challenge of eating nothing but wild and locally grown/raised foods. I had been talking about transitioning to such a diet for awhile now (actually since forever, but moreso recently, given all the stories about GMO crops causing organ damage and food contamination, not to mention rising food costs), but what pushed me to do start it was the fortuitous boon of two deer split between myself and a friend/co-worker. Given that one of the deer was huge, we each have a huge stock of wild meat as a buffer, in case our hunting, fishing, gardening, and gathering come up short. I'd also been inspired a bit by an acquaintance of mine out west who had seen if she could go a week on wild foods (see her blog here), and who gave me some great advice on my Facebook.

As a practical skill set, this is probably one of the biggest things on peoples' minds. Food keeps us alive, and growing up going to the grocery store leaves a lot of us doubting that adequate food can be procured through hunting, fishing, trapping, foraging, and gardening. It seems silly given the multitude of methods I just said, even being as broad as that. Simply knowing that another person is doing this is probably inspiring for some people, so I hope I can last awhile!

These are the rules I set out on my Facebook:

All food and drink is wild or locally grown/raised. The exception is coffee with cream (but no sugar; gross!), since I'm far too addicted to drop that cold turkey.

All of it needs to be found, given, grown, or traded. No buying. This aspect is partially a test of how functional our gift economies are.

Spices and flavorings are allowed, but only if they are non-caloric additions to the diet, since part of the goal is to see if I can meet my nutritional needs. So for example, things like sea salt, fish sauce, vinegar, and cayenne pepper are okay, but things like onions need to be found wild or from the garden.

I'll need to make some changes to my general lifestyle and the way I plan my days. I don't yet hunt, but I intend to by the end of the month. Otherwise, I once again wasted money on a permit and tags. I also need to set aside more/better time for fishing, and get around to finally processing the five gallons of acorns I have sitting around (though I'm partially scared to find out just how many of them went moldy). I should likely also get my trapping permit and do some of that, as well.

Today is the second day of this challenge, and so far I'm going strong. I started off yesterday with venison liver, thinly sliced and cooked in a bit of lard. Lunch was peppered venison steak with a wild green salad (mostly me munching on dandelion leaves, plantain leaves, and a bit of sourgrass), and a dinner of more wild greens. I passed out early so I wasn't all that hungry. As I write this I'm sitting down to my lunch of a wild green curry with thin slices of venison. The greens are cattail shoots, wild mustard leaves and flowers, and the shoots and leaves of young milkweed. It's pretty awesome, and the leftover will probably be my lunch tomorrow as well.

Now I think I'll go find myself a nice patch of wintergreen, because I've been craving fruit. Maybe it's seeing all those wild blueberry bushes in bloom, knowing that those many white and pink flowers mean many many blueberries this summer.

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Twenty-Nine Thousand Acorns by Daniel Q is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Photoshop Tree Brushes created by Obsidian Dawn. Photoshop custom dandelion shape created by MyMimi. "Broken Acorns" photograph in banner taken by modcam. Layout by Kris.