Category Archives: Food Value

Strategic trees: hazelnut

On a regional permaculture listserv, someone asked the great question of what trees are strategic to grow during these challenging and chaotic times. That thread received some good answers, including a shoutout to hickories, willows, cypress, hazels, the great book Trees of Power by Akiva Silver, and more. Of course, diversity is a strategic priority in itself, as are site specific selections. Here, I’m sharing an ode to hazelnuts as one such strategic tree:

Hazels have a long history of resilience themselves, surviving climate chaos in the past and being in the birch family who extend to the edges of where hardwoods can survive. There is evidence of hazelnuts being a resilient food source for our ancient ancestors. In terms of site suitability, hazelnuts can be a good fit in both urban and rural settings.

Hazels are botanically unique in that their beautiful flowers stay open for pollination for weeks (a grower recently told me they observed one open for 8 weeks!) Those flowers can also be cold hardy down to -20F, so they are less vulnerable to climate chaos.

There’s so much more to say, but the last bit of inspiration I will share to encourage learning and engaging with hazels is this.

Of all the ways trees can provide for our basic needs in mutualism, hazels offer many gifts.

  • Food: can be eaten raw, can be used as a staple food in various ways, incredibly healthy, can be valuable for trade.
  • Fodder: can be forage for animals, good for wildlife.
  • Fuel: coppices provide a short-rotation source of dense firewood that does not require splitting, and the nut shells are also energy dense.
  • Fiber: hazel rods were used to build early cool temperate-climate homes, and their strong, flexible wood is handy for many tools and applications (even boats!)
  • Farmaceuticals: “Let food by thy medicine…”
  • Fun: Hazels have deep roots in my ancestral culture and many others. They make lovely places for wildlife and can be used in all kinds of play. Their pink flowers softly announce the arrival of spring, and that kind of forward-looking positivity is needed with the challenges and metaphoric-winters we face.

What will come of this?

Year 2222
200 winters away
How many generations will have passed?
What will I&I enjoy in life? What of one's own ways will continue?
What lessons will I&I have learned?
What challenges will I&I face?

What will I&I have of the essential gifts to sustain oneself? Wood, water, air, soil, energy?

#TreesAreTheAnswer #WeAlreadyKnow #Hózhó

Hazelnut Happiness: Prose Proposing Corylus Seedlings as a Close Ally in Love and Life

The amazing abundance of trees from seed. Reforestation happens through a range of approaches, and from seed is one of the simplest, cheapest, and most time-tested of ways. It comes with pros and cons, the bad including relatively high loss and diversity of traits (such as shell thickness or fruiting time, which industrial operations seek consistency in). In such chaotic times diversity is good. This low-tech approach embraces loss en route to life. Life of the critters enjoying these trees & their seeds along the way, life that comes with the space and legacy of endings, life from letting life be as it will. Seed is a powerful source of sustenance, survival, and succession toward better local adaptation for chaotic futures.

Hazelnut seedlings growing in air-prune box nursery

Like the idea of trees and long-term improvement, enjoyment, environmental restoration, and if needed, sustenance? Hazelnuts are a tree you can trust to thrive easily and be enjoyable company. Measuring  in at 18ft high and 15ft across, these beautiful bushes have been at the heart of our ancestors’ lives for many, many millennia. Food; some of the healthiest fats available to us. Fiber for homes and many essential crafts. Fuel as both coppice1 firewood and as-energy-dense-as-coal residues (shells and husks) for burning (is that true? nearly2).

Hazel is a gift in social resilience as well. A folk hero. How do all the gifts hazel offers sound as renewables, compared with other strategies for food, fiber, fuel, health and wellness? Fossil fuels and  ‘renewable’ energy that depends on mining and toxic processing at industrial scales is degrading the foundations of life: water, soil, air, weather, ecosystems. How about a hedge of hazels instead?

How about a biocultural renewal? A deep adaptation? A relational agriculture that reciprocates and enhances nature’s gifts rather than degrading them.

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Squash Chickpea Brussels Bonanza

  • 1 Orange Kabocha Squash
  • 1 can Chickpeas
  • Several handfuls of Brussels Sprouts
  • Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, cumin, curry powder, cayenne
  • (supercharged version) Dukka
  • Sauce
    • Tahini
    • Lemon
    • Honey
    • Cumin
    • Warm water
    • Salt
    • Olive oil

Guidance:

Bake everything above with oil and salt and spices listed above. Bake squash seeds separately though, they’ll want to bake longer but the chickpeas and Brussels only want to go in for a little while. For sauce, combine all ingredients then titrate with warm water until it becomes sauce. If you have duqqa seasoning, also add that, especially with hazelnuts 👌. Put sauce and duqqa on all the baked goodness and enjoy!

White Bean Swiss Chard Pasta

Components:

  • Whole wheat pastas
  • 1can Great Northern Beans
  • 1 Onion
  • 8ish leafs Swiss chard
  • Basils
  • Garlics
  • Great Parmesan
  • Half lemon
  • Sufficient Salt & Pepper to taste

Guidelines:

  • Boil water and make pasta. When straining pasta, save a cup of pasta water in case you need to make the dish more sawsy
  • Dice onion and saute in pan with oil
  • Cut up swiss chard, first separating stems then cut it all in thin slices/ribbons
  • Add stems to pan, cook for a couple of minutes, add leaves
  • Add crushed and sliced garlic
  • Add cooked beans
  • At the end squeeze in half lemon without seeds
  • Add basil, grated Parmesan, S,P,etcetery
  • If mixture is dry, add reserved pasta water

Acorn Acknowledgement; ‘Nuts as Staple Foods’ with Osker Brown; and More – for “The Creation of a Thousand Forests is in One Acorn.”

Acorns have great potential as a staple food. This may seem like it takes a lot of processing, but compared with conventional staple food sources with similar nutritional profiles and palatability, this and many other tree crops require less energy overall to enjoy, potentially require less capital as a cost-of-entry, and have numerous co-benefits. This calls for a different culture however, as there’s a shift in where much of the energy is expended in enjoying regional nuts and trees for basic needs:

In conventional systems, energy use and negative externalities occur “Not In My Backyard“, in rural areas and in far away oil and fertilizer producing places. In systems offering greater food sovereignty, resilience, and positive externalities, energy use is brought closer to the point of consumption and after the point of sale.

Shelf stability of acorns highlights a trade-off of this shift in the point of energy use to enjoy the crop: acorns and many nuts are very shelf stable, but when they’re processed enough to be ready to eat (e.g. as acorn tortillas or roasted hazelnuts) they become less shelf stable. This is not a critical issue, as acorn flour and many value-added nut products can last for weeks dried or refrigerated and be preserved for months or maybe years frozen. This trade-off affects the culture of use and markets for local nut crops:

Tree nuts are long-lasting, resilient, more intimate staple foods which require more labor close-to-home, but

tree for basic needs also bring home closer with the source of one’s well-being and being well in ecological mutualism with that which supports oneself.

And with this in mind, I give thanks to Osker Brown and Living Web Farm for the information below about acorns for landscapes and livelihoods.


Distribution of time for tasks to enjoy acorns:

  • 1/3 labor gathering and drying
  • 1/3 labor cracking, leaching, processing
  • 1/3 labor quality control, removing nuts with signs of mold

Gather & quality-control red oaks, dry, store in-shell . . . here is a very informative video series, starting specifically at part 5 which details home and community-scale acorn gathering.

Ready to prep for meals? De-shell red oak acorns using hammer, nut cracker, nut crucible…or for large home-scale (e.g. ‘5lbs batch weekly for two months’), Davebilt #43 nut mill has been found effective and robust.

Sort and quality-control, winnowing kernels from shells. Discard kernels that are not a shade of brown whether dark or cream colored, e.g. remove nut meat colored white, yellow, green, or blue), discard shells for mulch or fuel or tanning.

Leech (various methods) until astringent flavor is no longer noticeable when tasting nuts. Dry. Break down further into flour using food processor or similar methods. To begin with cut with 50:50 all-purpose flour and use as you would all-purpose flour. Acorn flour can replace all purpose flour for many recipes.

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