Sunday, September 23, 2007

No more posts for a while

I leave this week for my cousin's wedding in California, and I have too much to get done before I leave, so I probably won't be posting for a little while. But once I return and get caught up on other projects, I'll continue the post a day!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Food from national forests, part 2

Back to brainstorming options for food from national forests... I'll focus here on plant foods, since I don't much about hunting or ecosystem management for game animals. I see a range of strategies for harvesting plant foods. These different options have different risks in terms of impact on ecosystems already under assault from civilized humans, so I'll also mention some thoughts around those risks. I ordered the strategies from least to most potential impact:

  • Gathering only what nature provides, being careful not to gather anything in ways which would negatively impact the community. This could include activities like harvesting camass bulbs to leave patches thinned out and healthier than when we arrived, carefully harvesting leaves or other root crops, and of course picking berries galore!
  • Spreading native edibles:

    • Into clearcuts or other catastrophe-struck areas, to encourage regrowth of plants we can directly harvest down the line. We could sow seeds, plant cuttings, or plant starts. We might alter the terrain to some extent, to make spots with high organic matter content to hold water and nurture specific plants; or we could create seedbeds; etc. I walked a private land clearcut this year immediately adjacent to Tillamook state forest which I think someone cut last year, so I wonder how long it takes for companies to replant, or if sometimes they don't even bother? And same question for public forests? We would need different strategies for planting into replanted vs abandoned clearcuts.
    • Into second growth areas, in the same ways as above. I don't know much yet about second growth--how healthy are those communities already? Should we avoid messing with them? Are some second growth areas essentially monoculture tree farms for timber harvest, and if so would introducing more diverse edible natives enhance the community? In a monoculture tree farm, would we want to actually take down some trees to make clearings for planting diversity?
    • Into old growth forest areas. I suspect that we couldn't go too wrong with this strategy, but I feel very hesitant to mess with old growth! I'd need to learn a lot more before embarking on this.

  • Spreading non-native edibles:

    • Into clearcuts and similar zones. Here I start to feel even more uncomfortable, because I really don't know enough to predict the impacts on the nearby plant communities! Obviously we'd avoid known invasive plants, but that still leaves plenty of unknowns. I can imagine planting root crops like jerusalem artichokes (native to the US) or parsnips (which have naturalized elsewhere in the US), fruit trees and shrubs, or nut trees like chestnuts and walnuts. We could even intensively manage an area with a full-blown food forest design. For herbaceous plants we'd need perennials which can compete with other vegetation, or annuals which can self-seed themselves, but in both cases we wouldn't want them to compete so well that they spread indefinitely to become a nuisance. Bringing in new species and establishing different combinations of plant communities in different areas could enhance regional resilience as climate change alters weather patterns in years to come, and existing plant communities begin to fail and open up niches. Pockets and sources of non-natives here and there will prove beneficial in the future, but maybe those pockets belong on private, actively managed land/homesteads, not in forests in the midst of communities struggling as it is?
    • Into second growth. Similar questions as with spreading native edibles into second growth, plus the issues of understanding the non-native plant behavior.
    • Into old growth. This just seems dumb to me. If old growth areas suffer from climate change and niches open up which non-natives should fill, then those non-natives can work their way in from the "pockets" I mentioned above. But I see no need to tinker with non-natives in rare old growth in advance.

By the way, I finally found the section of the library with books on pacific northwest native tribes, Oregon history, etc! I found some really nice books and encyclopedias giving details on individual tribes and their subsistence patterns through the year, including what foods they harvested when and their migration patterns. At some point I'll probably post a summary of resources and the most interesting information I find and conclusions I draw...but that could take me weeks or months before I get a chance to go through everything enough to pull it all together.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Some of my favorite nuts & seeds

I feel too tired tonight to finish up yesterday's post about food from national forests, so I'll just rank the nuts and seeds Theressa and I have been foraging in terms of food yield per time invested. I have not tried to calculate any numbers for how many minutes it takes to crack out a cup of each nut...I may do so in the future, but for now, I will just give rankings based on my working impressions.

Factors I consider include how long it takes us to harvest the nuts, how long to process them (if required), and how long to crack them out of their shells.

I rank nuts from most efficient meat yield to least efficient:

  • Hazels (big nuts, super easy to crack, and I love their taste--perfect nuts if and when we beat the squirrels to them!)
  • English walnuts (our staple foraged nut this past year)
  • Chestnuts (I have only tried baking them in ovens and roasting them in fires. I still have some trouble peeling off the inner skin, which I can eat if I have to but which tastes bitter to me. Sometimes I get the cooking & cooling timing right and the skin crumbles right off when I rub it, but sometimes I either have to spend a bit of time on the skin, or just eat the chestnut still in its skin.)
  • Black walnuts (Between husking them, then having to crack them in a vise instead of a regular nutcracker, then having to pick out the nutmeats with little picks, these take so long to process that even though I love their flavor, so far I eat way fewer of them than English walnuts)
  • Beech nuts (lightly roasting them does facilitate shelling, but the small nut size means it takes a while to get much yield. Also, we still need to work out an efficient way to harvest them, such as a tarp/sheet to shake the nuts down onto; so far we have picked them up one by one which takes a while.)
  • Prunus kernels (All the Prunus we've tried but the peach pits have very small kernels, and I have not yet figured out a way to hit pits with a hammer and consistently shatter the shell completely off. Sometimes it works out that way, but about 75% of the time I need to spend extra time pulling the kernels out of the cracked shell.)
  • Sunflower seeds (small seeds mean it takes a while to get much meat out)

This season, we also harvested acorns, dock seed, and amaranth seed, but we have not processed them yet so I don't have even a gut feel for how much yield they give for time invested. I would love to try processing almonds raw from a tree, but have not had that opportunity. We hope to harvest some lamb's quarters (Chenopodium sp), butternuts, maybe heartnuts, and hickories this season to try out as well. I also want to learn when and how to harvest pine nuts and monkey puzzle nuts. And we hope that our yellowhorns will bear nuts next year so we can taste them for ourselves, plus of course learn how easy they are to harvest and use.

I will probably update this list in a few months after I try out some of the new nuts and seeds mentioned above. So consider this a rough draft!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Food from national forests

I posted a few days ago about our 3-5 year plan, to buy land adjacent to public forest land so we can set up a permaculture homestead on our own land, and hunt and gather on public land. I still have not spent as much time actually in national and state forests as I plan to, but I have made a preliminary observatino over the last year and a half of occasional outings: public forests have very little food diversity to offer humans! At this point I think I have a fairly good handle on native edible plants, but whenever I go out, I have a hard time imagining how we could get enough food from the forest to support ourselves. Obviously, with tracking, hunting, and fishing skills, we could harvest animals and fish. But still, I keep feeling surprised at how few edible plants I actually see.

I suspect as I keep learning plants, I'll see more edibles in the wild. I can also believe that a more thorough exploration of a given area would reveal more options than what I've seen so far. But I wonder whether some other factors also come into play...

Indigenous natives in the Pacific Northwest, probably like natives everywhere, cultivated food to some extent. Natives here routinely used fire to rejuvenate berry patches and to enhance hunting. Natives also maintained patches of camass bulbs and other root crops. I don't remember reading anything about natives cultivating plants other than berries in forests, but I have only scratched the surface of knowledge of how people lived here in the past, so I won't feel surprised to discover some level of active management of other plants such as filberts and oaks. So I wonder whether the forests today exhibit anything more than an echo of pre-European forests, and whether many of the native edibles occurred in much greater abundance where natives encouraged them. European genocide of natives (known as "settling the land") and genocide of forests (known as "logging") must have disrupted systems to an enormous extent.

Last year at, Jason basically stated that national forests in the US contain the land unsuited for agriculture, whether because of climate, soil quality, slope, etc. Jason expects some post-crash people to try cutting down forest to plant agricultural crops, but also expects them to fail so miserably that national forests will not suffer too much deforestation of this type.

That thought has stuck in the back of my mind, and I noticed when comparing Sunset's Western zone map to national forest locations that the national forests do coincide very closely with the super-cold Sunset zones, where people would find it very challenging to grow standard crops.

On our camping trip last week, I came across a fascinating section in Thomas Elpel's book Primitive Living, Self-Sufficiency, and Survival Skills. Elpel describes his early attempts to forage plant foods from the wilderness surrounding his Montana home. He kept finding himself hungry and frustrated, despite knowing all the edible plants natives did, plus edible european weeds. Eventually he realized that no native groups lived permanently in the mountains in which he foraged; all tribes known to use the area moved through it seasonally, harvesting certain crops at certain times of the year before moving tens or hundreds of miles to other areas. And even more to the point: "Many of the potentially sustainable [in terms of sustaining Elpel in foraging expeditions] wild foods on my list turned out to be species that grew only in the fertile, warm valley bottoms, around the farms and towns. This is no coincidence, since that is also where the native peoples camped. It is only us modern abos that expect to eke out a living perched on top of a mountain!"

So, if national forests do not currently grow many edibles, and if natives mainly used those areas for hunting or seasonal gathering of certain plant foods (such as berries), then we may need special strategies to live next to a national forest. The national forest itself may not support an unskilled tribe hunting and gathering, and the adjacent private land we buy may not be well suited to growing standard crops. (I still need to learn more about the private/public land interface.) I still think our plan for our private land makes sense: food forests designed using permaculture principles should give good yields next to a national forest where trees grow well. But the climate/soil/etc may limit our species selection, ruling out many common garden annuals, and even restricting our perennial species palette.

I feel totally exhausted (we canned apples and tomatoes well into last night (hence no blog post yesterday) and I didn't sleep in very late this morning), so I will finish up my thoughts regarding how the above ideas affect subsistence in a national forest in a future post. By the way, I always welcome feedback on any of these posts (even though I don't respond to every comment), but I especially welcome feedback on this one from anyone who knows more than I do (not hard to manage) about any aspects of this topic...

Monday, September 17, 2007

What's in bloom?

I want to start tracking what plants are in bloom at what times of the year, to identify gaps in bloom time and to help me with future designs. Supposedly I will walk around the yard once a week to write down what's in bloom. I'll post them here each week in case other people find the information useful!

Almost all these plants are blooming in the front yard only, since the back yard has many fewer ground layer plants due to chicken conflicts. I'll mark plants in bloom in both front and back yard with a *.

September 17:

  • Calendula *
  • Arugula
  • Serviceberries in pots (presumably they bloom now simply because I potted them up into larger pots; the plants in the ground bloomed way back in spring when they're supposed to!)
  • Yarrow *
  • Foxglove
  • Lavendar
  • Garden Strawberry
  • Alpine strawberry
  • Bowle's Black violet *
  • Weedy mallow (Malva neglecta?) *
  • Oregano
  • Peppermint *
  • Tomato *, Tomatillo *, Wonderberry (Solanum x burbankii), Ground cherry
  • Fireweed?
  • Unknown yellow-flowered weed (8 petals & sepals & stamens, 1 pistil?)
  • Lingonberry
  • Basil
  • Echinacea
  • Wild carrot
  • Daisy
  • Radish
  • Mullein
  • Garlic chives
  • Borage
  • Skirret
  • Edible chrysanthemum
  • Monarda (we planted M. didyma and I think M. fistulosa, but I don't know at this point which survived)
  • Sunflower
  • thyme
  • Squash, melon
  • Jerusalem artichoke (Stampede & supermarket varieties just done flowering; Red Rover still going strong)
  • Scorzonera
  • Perennial Chamomile
  • Beans *
  • Cardoon (neighbor's yard)
  • Comfrey
  • Campanula rapunculoides?
  • Nasturtium
  • St. John's Wort
  • Alfalfa
  • Zebra mallow
  • Dandelion
  • Fennel
  • Red clover
  • Wapato (back yard only)
  • Wolfberry (back yard only)
  • Maximillian sunflower (back yard only)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Our 3-5 Year Plan

Theressa and I just got back this evening from a few days of camping. I'll post a quick sketch of our "three to five year plan". I won't go into nearly as much detail as we've thought through so far, but I will fill those in at some point in the future...

Basically, we've copied our "escape plan from civilization" from the Tribe of Anthropik. So you might start by reading their plan, then come back to ours.

The main differences off the top of my head between what we've been thinking vs Anthropik's plan:

  • We will probably wind up living in the Pacific Northwest, somewhere in Washington, Oregon, or Northern California. We know the ecology of this area better than any other area; we live here already so can more easily transition from a city base to a rural homestead; the climate makes growing food and living as a hunter/gatherer relatively easy; and the population density seems much safer to me than in most of the rest of the US. Jason at Anthropik has written that he thinks the Pacific Northwest could have so many people move to it that the population density would rise to among the highest in the US, but I have a hard time imagining that happening. I do expect some influx of people, but I see most of the population increase occurring along the I-5 corridor, especially between Portland and Seattle. We want to find an area far from those population bases anyway.
  • We want to buy enough land to be able to theoretically support a tribe of 10 people entirely from growing our own food using permaculture design. My number crunching so far suggests we'd need 2.5 acres per person for a paleodiet, so we'd need at least 25 acres of land usable for forest gardening and/or pasturage.
  • We want to buy our land mortgage-free, and set aside enough cash to pay for 10 years of living expenses (taxes, hunting & fishing fees, etc). We don't want to have to work at all, though I expect we will generate some income from odd jobs for extra security, or to buy extra land, etc.
  • We plan to buy land by the end of 2010, and to live permanently on it by the end of 2012.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Stupid raisin tricks

Over the last week and a half, we dried a batch of unknown-variety grapes we foraged from around town. We placed them on our house roof, on electric dehydrator trays, for about 5 days, then moved them onto screening in the solar dehydrator for a few more days after the weather turned mildly rainy.

Then we left the grapes in way too long, and they became super-dry raisins, with super-brittle stems. I started trying to pick the raisins out one by one, but found that took much longer than I wanted to devote to the project, as large pieces of stem broke off, attached to the raisins. I decided I didn't mind if I ate raisins with their immediate short stem attached, so long as I could separate out the rest of the grape bunch's stems. I found a method which seemed to work pretty quickly and efficiently.

Almost all the raisins had dried to such an extent that I could vigorously rub the entire grape bunch between my hands, crushing up the brittle stems. I did this over the mesh solar dehydrator screens, which allowed most of the stems to fall through the cracks, while catching most of the raisins. Some of the smaller raisins did fall through. But within a short while, I had the screen covered with raisins (many with short stems attached), and only some stem litter.

Next I shook the screen a bit to encourage more stem bits (and incidentally more small raisins) to fall through the screening. Finally, I spread a couple of dish towels on the table at the far end of the screen, tilted the screen so the far end rested on the towels, and shook/pushed with my hand all the raisins down onto the towels. Funneling the raisins from the towels into jars took very little time from there. I still had to pick through the stem litter on the table to pull out the small but usable raisins, but at least it took way less time than my original one-by-one method!

I assume people have perfected easier ways of processing raisins, starting with not over-drying their grapes. I wonder whether commercial growers selected certain raisin varieties such as Thompson's and Flame in part for ease of processing...I don't know much yet about what makes a good raisin grape. Plenty to learn...but at least I know one relatively quick way to deal with crisped raisins!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Locating trees

Theressa came up with a nifty method for finding trees of interest. Portland's Urban Forestry division maintains an online list of Heritage Trees of Portland. Heritage Trees have lived a long time and attained such majestic heights that someone nominated them and a committee accepted them for special recognition and protection. Besides inspiring awe, huge trees presumably give relatively huge yields of whatever seeds, nuts, fruits, or whatever they normally produce. So Theressa started looking through the lists for species which make human-edible products, and we've already started visiting some of the trees. Species of interest to us include: oaks, elms, beeches, monkey puzzles, chestnuts, hickories, pecan, butternut, ginkgo, and pines.

Similarly, Theressa found maps and tree listings for various tree walks (see bottom left of link) around Portland. She also discovered that when we participated in the Neighborhood Tree Liason program, we were given some tree walk maps not yet available online.

Although the public must have visual access to a Heritage Tree, the public does not necessarily have harvesting access. If Theressa and I get organized enough, we'll start adding some of the harvestable edible trees to the maps at Urban Edibles. Since I don't know how soon (if ever!) we'll get around to that, I thought I'd at least share those resources for people in Portland who may want to use them, and to jog other people's creativity in finding local resources of their own which may shortcut their way to finding interesting trees. Enjoy!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Cornus mas, Cornelian cherries

Theressa and I foraged some more this evening. Last year we identified three Cornus mas (Cornelian cherry) trees at the local park, but we found them too late in the season to really get a taste test. This year we checked on them about a month too early, and then not until tonight, about a month too late on two of them, but in time to harvest half a pound or so from the third!

The fruits we got taste very tart. I would have trouble eating a lot of them at a time. I think the fruits ripened fully on the tree, as many of them had fallen to the ground already , and those remaining came off very easily with just a gently tug (or inadvertently when we brushed a branch too hard!) Theressa harvested many from the ground; the ones I tried from the ground tasted slightly fermented, which I don't like, but Theressa doesn't mind.

Lee Reich says in Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden that "ripe fruits left to hang on the tree become more concentrated in flavor and sweetness. Some people prefer to allow harvested fruit to sit at room temperature for a day or more, in which case the flavor becomes sweet, but more sedate." We'll see whether our fruits sweeten up at all as we graze on them bit by bit the next day or two.

Reich also says that when the fruit was popular in Britain, only rarely did people eat them straight because sweeter varieties had not been selected. Usually they made tarts, sweetened syrups, or added the juice to cider and perry. I assume we did not find varieties chosen for taste; presumably our trees either grew from seed or came from an ornamental selection. So I still feel curious to try some of the other varieties One Green World sells, to compare the flavor and sweetness to those in the park.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Prunus Part Two

For the past few years I have viewed common laurels (AKA english laurel, AKA cherry laurel) as a great big evergreen shrub planted everywhere around Portland, with almost no useful functions. Sure, it makes a fine hedge, but why not plant something with multiple uses which can also act as a hedge?

Little did I know! Prunus laurocerasus turns out to have perfectly edible fruit! Although frequently-clipped hedges of the plant do not bear fruit (I assume the plant only fruits on second year growth and/or on growth of a certain minimum height), unmaintained hegdes bear racemes rich in numerous cherry-sized, black fruits. The fruits taste fairly good to me; I can eat a handful or two at a time and enjoy them, though I don't like them as much as cherries, plums, etc. I eat the inner kernel in the same way as the other Prunus species. So far our small tub of fruit sitting outside has stayed fresh for several days, so they seem to keep well.

I've learned a lesson from this (besides that I can eat the fruits). Several people have told me that you can not eat the fruits; I now know that unless I really trust someone's plant knowledge, I should always do at least the basic research of running a new species through the Plants for a Future database and Francis Couplan's Encyclopedia of Edible Plants of North America.

I also notice how rapidly my point of view has shifted on this plant. Where I used to see common laurels and think "rip 'em all out!" I now think "Hello, friend!" It scares me a bit that I formed my previous knee-jerk reaction from poor data, and I plan to pay more attention in the future to whether I have a solid basis of knowledge about plants or ecosystems I consider altering. I will definitely proceed more carefully with any future projects such as the tearing out of our own laurel hedge here a few months ago! Although I still may have decided to replace our laurel hedge in our front yard with the diverse array of evergreen hedge plants with edible berries, to add variety and more native plants and plants with nitrogen-fixing ability to our yard, maybe I would have kept some of the laurels...

Saturday, September 08, 2007

European Beech

I will make all my readers wait with anxiously-held breath for part two of the Prunus revelations. Maybe I'll finish that up tomorrow. In the meantime...

Theressa and I went foraging today. We planned to gather acorns from various Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana) trees around town, since supposedly the acorns from these trees contain relatively few of the tannins which make the acorns taste bitter, meaning we need to put less time and effort into leaching the acorns to make them palatable.

However, we did not find any acorns under any of the 20+ Oregon white oaks we visited, which suggests that either the species did not have a good year this year (oaks in general have heavy mast years every few years, with intervening years seeing little if any yield) or we came too early to get a crop. We found gnawed, empty shells under a few of the trees, so at least a few acorns existed before the squirrels got to them! We can't see well enough and/or have not developed the pattern recognition skills to tell whether any acorns remain waiting to mature and drop from the branches above.

We did find plenty of acorns under a red oak of some sort, and collected a few pounds of those. We visited that oak before the bulk of the Oregon white oaks, so didn't want to load ourselves up with "inferior" acorns and not have room for the good ones. But it looks as if we may just have to content ourselves with red oak acorns, of which we should be able to easily gather hundreds of pounds just from the nearby neighborhood.

We also found a European beech! (Fagus sylvatica) It took us a few minutes to identify it; once we did, I climbed the tree and shook all the branches, causing a nutstorm below. Theressa took shelter, and once the storm passed we spent maybe an hour gathering as many as we could find in the grass. We decided we need to make a sheet or tarp standard foraging equipment, since spreading a sheet and shaking nuts onto it would allow us to gather nuts much faster than having to pick them up one by one.

The raw beech nuts remind us of large sunflower seeds, or raw pumpkin seeds. The relevant issue of Agroforestry News suggests not eating seeds raw due to their oxalic acid content, but Plants for a Future states no such concerns. We ate a few raw and they tasted just fine; in the future we may roast them lightly as suggested in Agroforestry News in case that does help with issues of toxicity, and because we suspect it will pre-crack the thin shell on the nuts, making it easier for us to get the nuts out.

I hope to weigh a batch of beech nuts pre- and post-shelling, to get some numbers on what percentage of the nut is shell vs kernel. Other than that, Theressa and I plan to enjoy eating them, and probably to seek out some more trees for harvest!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Mysteries of Prunus REVEALED!!!

My own thought a day

Inspired by my old high school friend Ben (WARNING: no rewilding content!), I embark on an attempt to post once a day with some tidbit concerning permaculture, rewilding, the collapse of civilization, or some such important piece of my life. I have never posted as often to this blog as I would like, nor have I ever emailed or called friends and family as often as I intended, so I don't feel particularly hopeful about my commitment to daily posting. (I don't recommend that you put any money down on it!) But I'll try to give it a good shot, and if it means I wind up posting once a week, at least I'll be posting more often than the once a month I've managed thus far! So...

Prunus presents

I now reveal the secrets of Prunus! Learn how to double the value of your prunes! Meet the mystery fruit, once hated as a useless pain in the ass, now my beloved companion!

Kernel of wisdom

As you know, botanists classify almonds in the genus Prunus, along with many of our common fruits including plums, cherries, peaches, and apricots. People grow almonds for their extra-large seed enclosed in (if I understand correctly) a thin layer of flesh which pretty much dries up and withers away once the almond ripens. The seed, when cracked open, reveals an...almond...a nice large package of nut!

According to Plants for a Future, you can eat the kernels of the seeds of just about all other Prunus species in the same way as almonds. Some cautions apply: "sweet" almonds cultivated for eating come from a type of almond species selected for low content of the glycoside amygdalin, "which becomes transformed into deadly Prussic acid (Hydrogen cyanide) after crushing, chewing, or any other injury to the seed." (Wikipedia) Wild, or bitter almonds, contain relatively high amounts of amygdalin and thus pose more danger of cyanide poisoning upon ingestion. Other Prunus species have varying levels of amygdalin, and content may even vary across individuals within a species. The more amygdalin, the more bitter the taste. So if a kernel tastes "too bitter" (PFAF's phrase--I'm not quite sure how to judge that!), avoid it! Again according to PFAF, "[amygdalin leading to hydrogen cyanide] is usually present in too small a quantity to do any harm but any very bitter seed or fruit should not be eaten. In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer. In excess, however, it can cause respiratory failure and even death."

I have heard second-hand (and therefore pass it along merely as rumour for you to evaluate yourself), that John Kallas (whom I perceive as responsibly anal when it comes to researching and making statements about foods with potential toxicity) says that since hydrogen cyanide is a gas at room temperature, that by crushing or cutting up kernels you can convert the amygdalin into hydrogen cyanide which evaporates off, therefore reducing or eliminating the dangers of eating kernels. I don't know how long you have to wait for the gas to evaporate, or how thoroughly you should crush or cut the kernels. Note that wikipedia seems to describe hydrogen cyanide as a gas only above 78.8°F, although other sources I found with a random web search state it a gas at "room temperature."

This seems consistent with citations I've seen in Daniel Moerman's Native American Ethnobotany and in Samuel Thayer's The Forager's Harvest that Native Americans pounded up various small Prunus fruits, fruit shell and kernel, then dried them as cakes for later consumption. I believe Moerman's book also mentions roasting or leaching as methods used to process Prunus kernels (or maybe I saw that in another source, or maybe I made it up). I generally figure indigenous people knew what they were doing, so this seems like good confirmation to me of the safety of consuming kernels in moderation, especially if processed in any of those ways. (Though I have to say that eating dried fruit with little bits of shell mixed in does not sound appealing to me.)

For the last month or two I have been eating kernels from cherries, plums, and a few peaches. I have eaten maybe 12 kernels per day on average, probably eating no more than 40 kernels on any given day. I have felt no ill effects, aside from mild frustration at the low yield! Cracking peach pits seems to give an equivalent yield for time invested to other nuts, but since cherry and plum pits give much less nut meat per seed, it takes a lot of hammer whacks and (most time-consuming) fiddling with the cracked seed to extract enough kernels to equal, say, one walnut. (I think I'll post a fuller comparison of nuts yields and so on at some point). Given that I do not have access to foraged almonds, I don't mind spending a little extra time (which can feel meditative--I like hitting things with hammers) to add variety to my usual walnuts & cashews with almond-tasting morsels. And I really enjoy the way this discovery extends the caloric and nutritional value of all these fruits we've foraged...I misled you above by saying you could double the value of your Prunus, but as a wild-ass-guess the kernels may yield 25% again of the calories of the fruit flesh, well worth capturing and eating if you have time to spare.

Enough for'll have to tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion to our unique expose on PRUNUS!!!