Friday, September 30, 2011


Windfalls come and go but neighbors are (sometimes) forever.  We've collected two foraging forays this season.  Last year, we picked up acorns by the bag-full, shelled and then processed them to make acorn gnocchi all winter long.  This fall we are quickly running out of ground frozen acorn four, and my child is begging for more acorn gnocchi, so I begin looking for "the drop".  I feel that this isn't an oak year (of course, now that we love them) but a BEECH year.  The beech trees are actually producing something in abundance for once.  I remember my husband asking last year, "what about beech nuts, where are they?".  Well this is our area.  Just watch the squirrels in your neighborhood, somehow they know what is good to eat, that year, in your yard.  We have beech nuts everywhere!  So I search the internet on what to do with them, because I'd like to deprive those nuisance squirrels of a meal and make them move to my neighbor's yard.  In reality, we have copious acres for the the wildlife to live and eat so I have no qualms about laying claim to a 20' radius of the house.

Last weekend I spent some time picking up the beech nuts.  My husband said, "don't spend 3 hrs on 'em if you find they aren't any good."  Picking them off the ground, when they are falling like this, is easy...and rewarding considering a squirrel is up top doing the hard work.  I bring them in the house and google them to know what to do next.  There's not too much information on beech nuts out there...probably because they aren't worth the time.  My time's not worth much these days, so I will try.

First, there's the outer shell that is like a bur and opens on it's own, with time.  Then, I've found once you peel out two seed casings (from the bur), that after further opening, some have seeds and some do not.  You can pry all open, if you want, and waste a ton of time.  Many have immature seeds that you cannot harvest.  And it is not predictable, based on appearance alone to differentiate between those seed casings with a seed and those without.  Instead of opening them all, you can put them into a container with water, sift off the floaters, as these will be immature, and only crack open the ones that sink.  This worked with great success, except that some of the "sinkers" will be rotten seeds.  On the whole it saved my quite a bit of effort.  The final seeds are soaking in a jar of water in the fridge to get rid of the tannins after which we will roast and eat them like expensive pine nuts.  If you have beech nuts falling in your yard, be sure to pick up the fresh green ones and process them the same day because they will rot very quickly.

The second windfall came when we walked to the corner food cart for what New Englanders call a maple creamie.  This is "soft-serve" to Midwesterners. with maple syrup added to the mix.....mmmmm.  It's nearly two miles round-trip, so a good walk for my 3-yr old and a nap in the stroller for the baby.  On the way home, I spotted two separate clusters of wild hops climbing up the power lines.  Now, this was no one's yard (in front of a business) nor was it a deliberate planting/harvest scenario since many of the hops were already post-peak and brown, I felt no guilt in my scrambling and giddiness to collect everything within reach and not totally overripe.  I walked home like we had just won the lottery.  This stuff is $4 an ounce at the homebrew store, so we definitely paid for our creamies on this particular outing.  

1 comment:

  1. Interesting to hear about the beech nuts. I'm not sure if we have those in our area or not. Good trick for sorting some of the useless shells from the worthwhile ones.