Friday, October 14, 2011

Acorn Workshop

I have become an acorn addict, and today I did my best to share the affliction.  Amanda from the University of Victoria Ecological Restoration Club contacted me about leading an acorn workshop.  We went to Playfair Park, where there is an abundance of Garry Oaks (Quercus garryana) that are actually producing acorns this year.  I started by reading a nice passage from Wild Fruits that captures Thoreau’s fascination with acorns:

“How munificent is Nature to create this profusion of wild fruits, as it were, merely to gratify our eyes!  Though inedible they are more wholesome to my nobler part, and stand by me longer than the fruits which I eat.  If they had been plums or chestnuts I should have eaten them on the spot and probably forgotten them; they would have afforded me only a momentary gratification, but, being acorns, I remember and as it were feed on them still.  Yet as it respects their peculiar and final flavour, they are untasted fruits, forever in store for use, and I know not of their flavours as yet.  That is postponed to some yet unimagined winter evening.  These which we admire but do not eat are the real ambrosia—nuts of the gods.  When time is no more, we shall crack them."

"I cannot help liking them better than horse chestnuts, which are of similar color, not only because they are of a much handsomer form, but because they are indigenous.  What hale, plump fellows they are!  They can afford not to be useful to me—not know me or be known by me.  They go their way and I go mine.  Yet sometimes, I go after them.”  (October 28, 1858 HDT)

And go after them we did as well.  I started by having everyone collect 5 acorns and we examined them together pointing out the various signs of insect damaged acorns.  Then I talked through the process of drying, cracking, grinding, and leaching the acorns.  I brought some acorn meal that I had started leaching that morning to show what it looked like.  Then we collected acorns.  Most people stayed for longer than I expected, but even after the last left, I couldn’t stop myself and picked until my bike bucket was completely full.
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