In a conference webinar session about cooperatives (as a business model), we discussed how what we are taught about economics is not cooperative.
The myths of our capitalist culture tell us the commons is tragic, despite the authors of that myth (tragedy of the commons) building their arguments on shaky foundations, and having that myth refuted by a high quality scientist who won a Nobel prize for that refutation and clarification of managed commons.
In this discussion, someone made the great point about one reason we all benefit from passing leadership to indigenous and black leaders:
“I feel that that is one reason we need to lean into Indigenous Values and have BIPOC leaders in building Coops– because they have been holding it down for so long….and they know how to lead from a different reference point of conditioning and community resourcing…”
As Sylvanaqua Farms has said: “Racism, environmental decline, animal welfare, and human health are tied in a Gordian Knot around the issue of food. Common sense would suggest untying it be left to people with demonstrated expertise in its varying facets:
– Indigenous land/water protectors (which includes farmers) who protect 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity – People of color who are most familiar with the intricate nuances of American racism – Livestock and hunting cultures around the world that regard the sanctity of all life (animal and plant) equally and in ways utterly unfamiliar to Euro/Western minds – Members of strong, older food cultures that enjoy robust health without an industry devoted to nutrition”
– And as came up in a PASA 2021 conference conversations bout cooperatives: indigenous people and people of color are much closer to a cooperative mindset, compared with European men experiencing generations of learning to be competitive.
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.
SPLASH FIGHT BITE All was alright in the world, as I was moving toward the light Looking for some food so I’d sleep well through the night And awaken another day My mouth becomes open !!! Woah I am awoken ! I spread my wings and make like a cross Then my world is tossed – tension to release; anticipation to closure; potential to kinetic So, It is written Now I make like the moss (gratitude to the roots, foundations of the Kingdom) Growing slowly through the churning fires of Time Now at the turning of the rhyme, I ask: Have I eaten or been eaten?
An improvement to this video’s recipe: the acorn mash/flour should have been dried (at least squeeze-dried in cloth) after final decanting, prior to cooking. That way the pancakes would not have fallen apart.
A long term steward of the northeast, Sunchoke aka Earth Apple aka Jerusalem Artichoke aka Helianthus tuberosus. This plant is a sunflower species with a starchy, potato-like root that propagates itself (usually easily) from year to year.
In the video below, Ben Falk harvests and discusses a 400sq.ft. area that grows sunchokes year after year, with minimal maintenance, while building soil. This year’s harvest offers 90lbs of starchy “J-choke” tubers, leaving some in soil to regrow the patch for next year’s harvest. He notes using them as pureed soup after some slow cooking, as well as pickling and lactofermenting them. I have only had them a few times. When I cooked them I cut them thin and stir fried them, cooking them for a while and adding other veggies and seasoning into the mix. They are dense plants and feel like a good staple, able to significantly help mitigate ‘the hunger gap’ as Ben says regarding strains on food supplies and ecology. I look forward to growing, harvesting, and cooking more of this perennial plant ally.
Notes from “Social Resilience and Urban Design: NYC and the COVID-19 Pandemic” webinar (hosted by architecture and urban design firm Cooper Robertson) with inspiring points made by Raymond Figueroa-Reyes and other speakers.
As we look to community gardening to provide food, as it has in the past (e.g. ~40% of food in U.S. during WWII; Cuban urban farming during its Special Period food shortages), we can look to Worker Protection Gardens and Community Gardens during the Industrial Revolution and Redlining period respectively.
Food hubs are on regional scale, but we need to bring them up in micro-scales, as distributed infrastructure for basic needs. Emergent food hubs can help aggregate and distribute food available from existing production systems as well as community gardens. (One example is in the Bronx worked on by this webinar’s speaker Raymond Figueroa-Reyes and others.)
Trickle up economy: focusing support to empower communities with micro-food systems, and the benefits will rise up through the system, growing diversity and resilience.
Awesome footage of Finger Lakes-based Edible Acres plant nursery and homestead:
@1:44 Cool contrast of the land cover texture at Edible Acres forest garden alongside neighboring sparsely-treed lawn. From sunshine to complex, interdependent and diverse self-regenerating life and succession.
From a food resiliency standpoint: collecting wild nuts, cleaning and drying them properly, and storing them in-shell with decent airflow in a cool space like a basement – it’s probably one of the highest levels of resiliency for fat and protein that you could store, I think. These hickories should be good for 10 years, I’ve heard for up to 15 years. Chestnuts when they’re dry, more or less indefinitely. Acorns, more or less indefinitely. These Japanese walnuts from 4 years ago…one out of 50 is a dud, the rest taste absolutely beautiful.
from Edible Acres (@4:31 of video below)
@ 5:34 some processing footage
“It feels like a critical base layer to food security, with gardening, wild foraging and hunting as additional layers of benefit.”
Replying to a comment about wild nuts being a most efficient form of hunting & gathering
Food sovereignty, good when times are good and when times are not so good.
An imaginative exercise – what does an ideal food system look like to you? When I envision optimal food systems and resilient, rewarding primary sectors that are grounded and guarded by ecological mutualism, I see trees are a key & core part.
Towering timber trees among their families and cohorts of diverse company, gifting staple crops for current and future generations with numerous co-benefits. Agroforest cows? Shiitake and other medicines? Trees of all types, hazel in the northeast alongside other handy hardy bushes. Alley & edge crops. Wildlife habitat. Connection to place and harmony with neighbors human and nonhuman. Productive conservation & restoration agriculture. Forest gardens. Community food hubs, gathering and processing.
How can we integrate ecological mutualism into our lives, at various scales? Go nuts