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.

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At May 28, 2010 at 4:44 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If your favorite cooking oil is soy or corn, get a new favorite cooking oil."
Indeed. http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/526-skinny-on-fats.html

At May 28, 2010 at 8:35 PM , Blogger Elaine said...

Hey Dan,

Your mention of cleaning the burdock root well unless you like gritty dirt made me think of the "Sand Papago" (O'odham but can't remember the O'odham word for sand) who traditionally lived near the lower Colorado River in what is now southern Arizona, southeastern California and northwestern Sonora, Mexico. Their name comes from their favored food, a strange parasitic plant called Sand Food (Pholismae sonorae to us scientists). I just googled sand food and found a website that is promising:


Note, however, that its description needs editing - there are errors, the most glaring being to describe the flowering portion (inflorescence to us botanical types) as a "mushroom cap." Mushroom-like I'd accept - but it is a flowering plant and thus more closely related to algae than to fungi and animals.

Okay, back to gritty dirt. If your major, favored food source grows in sand far from water it stands to reason that cleaning the sandy dirt off it is challenging. Thus, the teeth of the Sand Papago were worn down quickly from all the abrading by said sand.

More accurate info can be found at the Desert Botanical Garden's website:

I did some sand food surveys in 1989 and also worked on some of the germination experiments when I was at DBG. Given that it's extremely rare (Drat! those dune buggies!) I've never eaten it. Oh, well.

Happy gathering of your more common plants with weedy "tendencies."

At May 29, 2010 at 7:13 AM , Anonymous Becky Lerner said...

Kudos, Dan!!! Thank you so much for doing this.

At May 29, 2010 at 4:08 PM , Blogger christinemm said...

Dan I'm impressed! I've been reading a blog about being a locavore of someone in the next town over from me. However it is too hard as she's trying to eat everything fresh. Eating local and harvesting one's own food, including hunting, take planning and lots of prep time. Canning and preserving, smoking and drying things has to be done to extend it over time.

I've been thinking more lately of the hunting and poaching my grandparents did in northern Maine when they were poor (before the days of welfare and food stamps not that their pride would have let them take it). A lot of time was spent preserving foods to store for future use. Lots of time to prep slowfoods to eat also. This is incompatible with the face pace of live in 2010. A lot of general slowing down of one's lifestyle must be done to make any movement back toward that lifestyle let alone rewilding.

Thanks for all your hard work as a teacher.

At May 29, 2010 at 8:50 PM , Blogger 29,000 Acorns said...

Greg and I were discussing how messed up it is that we have to go through so much effort to preserve food and stuff, especially smoking, because of the way our lives are set up. If our lifestyles made any sense, we'd be able to just hang the meat up in the rafters and the smoke from our constant fires would keep the bugs away and create a protective layer.

What it really comes down to is that our whole setup is wrong. If we were doing the whole hunter-gatherer thing, it'd all flow and be easy with little effort.


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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.