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!


Bpaul said...

I'm very curious about how you harvest/store amaranth. If you feel the interest to post about that I'd dig it.

FarmerScrub said...

I expect to process enough amaranth tomorrow to make some pancakes or I'll write something up about the whole experience some time soon!

crystal said...

my experience with cones: not fun. I've successfully found the seeds in pine cones, but the types of pine cones i have found have very small hard seeds, definately not worth the pitch & time of prying. I tried some sub-alpine fir that the squirels were harvesting near Detroit Dam. I roasted it by the fire which allowed me to pry it open. The seed was about half the size of a pine nut you buy at a store but the flavor was... way to strong & woodsy tasting.

I have not given up on cones, but I will likely look for pines specifically planted for their nut production.