Sunday, October 30, 2011

Results: Balsam Root Experiment

Members of the Capital Nut Tree Project had a meeting this evening not too far from our house so Katrina and I decided to check it out.  My motivation for attending was to try and meet someone that has a Davebilt Nutcracker in the hope that I could borrow it for a day to crack all of our acorns.  Nobody in attendance has one, but one member was very interested in getting one.  I also wanted to share the virtues of acorns to people that I felt would probably be receptive, so I cooked up the English Oak (Quercus robur) acorn meal that has been leaching for the last week and brought it along for everyone to sample.  It was my first batch of English Oak, and I thought it turned out well.  I sweetened it with maple syrup.  They enjoyed the totally tree bread and were very excited to learn more about acorns, so I arranged to lead an acorn workshop next weekend.  This group is working to plant more nut trees around Victoria and will likely host workshops on nut tree propagation and care.

My Balsam Root (Balsamorhiza deltoidea) experiment, like many others that don’t have the fortune of benefiting from very detailed traditional knowledge, has not turned out as well as I had hoped.  This afternoon the roots had a rich black-brown color that suggested to me that they might be done.  I decided to let the water boil down so that any sugars that leached out of the boiling roots might concentrate to the point of precipitating back onto the roots.  When all the water was finally gone I pulled a root out and sample it.  The cooked roots are incredibly fibrous.  They tasted like a hemp rope sweetened with molasses and flavored with Fir needles.  My conclusion is that I harvested them too late in the year.  A woman named Sandra Peacock did her PhD dissertation on Balsam Root, so I will try and get in touch with her, or her dissertation, to learn more. 
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