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Native American nut tree management

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I recall years ago reading on the internet about how, before the arrival of the whites, Native Americans near the Pacific coast made controlled burns of the forest floor in order to promote a "parkland"-like biome and thereby facilitate the growth of various nut-producing trees.

 

But now I can't find anything about this on the net.

 

Does anybody know anything about this?

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Slash-and-burn farming is a method used by many cultures world wide.

 

"Masting" is an interesting phenominon with nut trees.

 

 

dcarch

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I'm not sure that this is the same as typical slash-and-burn, since the intent was to clear undergrowth but leave the trees standing. In the case of acorns, it appears also to have made them easier to find and to have roasted them: pretty efficient provided the fire didn't get out of control.

Here's an interesting bibliographic paper: "References on American Indian Use of Fire in Ecosystems" http://www.wildlandfire.com/docs/biblio_indianfire.htm . Crop management is one topic discussed.

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Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Controlled burning is an old concept.  People probably learned of it from observation of natural phenomenons such as forest fires that were ignited by lightning.    In time they noticed the benefits to the landscape through the cycles of recovery that took place afterwards.  Experimenting with replicating those results probably led to this concept for earlier people whose early technology

would have been creating fire and controling it to improve their lives..

 

I've seen video coverage of Foresters engaging in what they call "Prescribed Burns" which keep the underbrush at a minimum so that the trees of value can flourish.  Whether they be hardwood for building or fruit or nut orchard trees, it's just good wood lot management and conservation of natural resources.

 

If underbrush is allowed to grow up unchecked, it is like having a huge pile of kindling amidst your valuable timber just waiting

for the right moment to ignite and destroy everything.  This is why 'prescribed burning". takes place evey couple of years to keep

that threat to a minimun and the prescribed burn so much easier to manage.

 

 

Forestry Management - prescribed burn  video  in Northern Illinois

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Uq5_5VQLJk&list=PLC-G0onEQWwNUT-N05qq6Q4PbaqDA9gtJ&index=7

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I'm not sure that this is the same as typical slash-and-burn, since the intent was to clear undergrowth but leave the trees standing. In the case of acorns, it appears also to have made them easier to find and to have roasted them: pretty efficient provided the fire didn't get out of control.

 

 

Having explored cooking with acorns, my understanding is that acorns need to be rinsed well, preferably in running water, to release the tannins that make them bitter and unpleasant to eat.  Would roasting them in a fire make them more palatable without a need for rinsing?


 ... Shel


 

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Having explored cooking with acorns, my understanding is that acorns need to be rinsed well, preferably in running water, to release the tannins that make them bitter and unpleasant to eat.  Would roasting them in a fire make them more palatable without a need for rinsing?

First, let me say that I've never cooked with acorns, so I have no firsthand knowledge of this. Earlier this summer I was told (by a Minnesota Park Ranger) that certain varieties of acorn don't need all that leaching. I was surprised at this information, because we were taught in school that leaching was mandatory in order to make the acorns edible. One of the web sites I read earlier today brought up the issue of simply roasting the acorns, but of course it's possible that the web site author is misinformed; you know what they say about not believing everything you read on the internet. ;-)

This web site indicates that not all acorns are created equal, and makes for some interesting reading: http://honest-food.net/2010/01/14/acorn-pasta-and-the-mechanics-of-eating-acorns/


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Acorns have become one of my areas of expertise and they're on the menu nightly.  First, emory and grey oaks produce acorns that need little or no treatment to make them edible.  The batch I pulled two weeks ago (which will get me through most of the year) were perfect as is - no tannin-ness at all.  That is definitely a result of variety but I think also varies somewhat based on rain or aridity.

 

On a whim two years ago I decided to try not leaching.  Instead I shelled, dehydrated, rough ground, dehydrated, and fine ground.  I've done this method ever since.  A few months ago I told that story to a group of arborologists (?) from the University of Arizona and we hypothesized that my technique works because the compound that holds the tannin is water soluble.  Therefore, leaching or dehydrating would reduce or eliminate the compound.  Interesting considering that we think of nuts as fatty/oily.

 

On a related note for the OP - the dialogue we have in this part of the country is how the youth on the reservations don't honor the techniques of the old generation.  Specifically, they ram the back of their truck into the tree to knock the nuts off and into their pickup bed - the lazy way versus hand picking, and the way that damages the trees. 

Having explored cooking with acorns, my understanding is that acorns need to be rinsed well, preferably in running water, to release the tannins that make them bitter and unpleasant to eat.  Would roasting them in a fire make them more palatable without a need for rinsing?

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Here's an interesting article about Native American land use and burning:

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_American_use_of_fire

It has a short bibliography, so you may be able to find some good sources of information.

As to slash and burn, I don't think the NW Coastal Indians burnt forest floors for slash and burn agriculture. Compared to other Indians, the NW coastal tribes lived in a land of plenty and did not need to grow food--foraging supplied them with a rich diet.

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