Transformational Gardening

Disclaimer: Foraging can be fun, rewarding and provide health benefits. As a novice forager, I will be sharing my foraging experiences. However, in order to be safe, always consult with local foraging experts and guidebooks before beginning foraging. Children should learn to forage safely by being guided by experienced adults. Never ingest anything unless you are certain of the identification and safety of the plant. Some plant species are inedible and some are poisonous.

January 2011 Foraging Experiences

(Forward to: February 2011 Foraging Experiences)

January 8, 2011

Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)

Most of the 11-1/2 gallons of acorns I picked were Red Oak from this hiking park. I dried the acorns for 3 weeks. Then I shelled them trying various methods including hitting the shells lightly with a hammer to crack them. I tried the towel method outlined in Samuel Thayer’s book, “Nature’s Garden.” The towel method is faster for cracking them, but takes time to line the acorns up. I think a simple hand nut cracker might actually be faster. After picking out the acorn nuts, I removed the acorn skin.

I tried grinding the acorns in my Country Living grain mill (and even tried using the special corn/bean auger made for oily grains/beans). But acorns do not grind well at all using the Country Living mill. I ended up hand grinding them with a motar and pestal -- a process that took a very long time.

After grinding the acorns, I cold water leached out the tannins for two weeks, changing the water 2-3 times per day. The leaching was done after approximately 9 days, but I kept going until I was ready to make bread on the weekend. This is the slow method of cold water leaching. Using running cold water can leach the acorns in less than 1 day.

By the time the acorns were done leaching, my Corona grinder arrived. I squeezed out the leached acorn meal and ran is through the Corona grinder once to make it the consistency of corn meal.

Bread Recipe:

2-1/2 cups fresh organic whole wheat flour
3/4 cup of acorn meal
3/4 cup of sourdough (made with 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup water, yeast)
1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
7/8 cup water
3 Tablespoons of honey or maple syrup

Kneed the dough for 8-10 minutes. Let the dough rise for several hours and kneed again. Let the dough rise again. Oil the bread pan and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for no more than 1 hour.

Next time I make acorn bread, I'll have all of the tools I need to process the acorns quickly.




January, 22 2011

Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) (Previously: Chrysanthemum leucanthemum)
and
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

I was very excited to try my first bottle of wine! In general, I'm not a big fan of wine and I liked this wine about as much as any other. I have been drinking 1-2 cups per day for about one week. No negative side effects. It does taste better chilled.

A number of my friends didn't like the taste very much. See the quotes on the label (image to the right). But a few of them thought it was anywhere from “okay” to “good.” I will make wine with just red clover (no oxeye daisy) next year as that seems to be the most common recipe.

Now there seems to be some concern amongst some foragers and others about fermented red clover to make wine. The evidence I have found makes me feel that it is not a problem. But everyone has to make their own decision.

The claim was that red clover (Trifolium pratense) has significant amounts of coumarins. When coumarins are fermented, they often produce another form of coumarin called dicoumarol. Dicoumarol has drug-like effects that prevents blood clotting.

Other plants such as sweet clover (Melilotus alba and Melilotus officinalis) are used as hay for livestock. These species are known to have significant amounts of coumarins and if they get moldy, the dicoumarol produced can kill some livestock. This led some clinicians and even some foragers to assume that red clover (Trifolium pratense) has significant amounts of coumarins and might produce similar effects.

The latest research I have seen seems to indicate that red clover contains only very small levels of coumarines. In “Confusion regarding anticoagulant coumarins in dietary supplements” (Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, Volum 76, No. 6, Pages 511-516, 2004), the researchers measured tested for 17 coumarins. Their combined concentration was 690 ppm (parts per million) or ~0.07% coumarins in the red clover extract. The researchers point out that “consumption of 400 mg/day of this red clover extract would result in a dose of less than 0.28 mg/day (690ppm) of all 17 coumarins combined. Dicoumarol doses of 25-200 mg/day are needed to produce clinically significant anticoagulant effects, and the concentration of dicoumarol in the extract was about 100 times less than the lowest dose.” A news clip of this article can be found at: http://www.montanaim.com/pubs/050155-291.pdf.

In “The Chemical and Biological Profile of a Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) Phase II Clinical Extract” (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Volume 12, No. 2, Pages 133-139, 2006), the researchers measured less than 0.03% coumarines in the raw unformulated red clover extract. While this level of coumarins is very low, not all chemical in red clover have been identified. A draft of this paper can be found at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1780253/.

For Melilotus species, the coumarin content can vary widely. In a study of Melilotus species in South Australia, the coumarin content varied from very low: 0.06% to high: 0.943% depending upon the species tested. (“Variation in coumarin content of Melilotus species grown in South Australia,” New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research, Volume 53, Pages 201-213.)

While neither of the first two studies mentioned above used a fermented red clover product such as wine, the levels of coumarins that might be converted into dicoumarol was very low. Other plants contain coumarins such as wild carrot, lemons, cinnamon, strawberries, cherries, sweet woodruff and the herb qong quai. If you look for “red clover wine” on the Internet, you can see that others drink it without reported effects. In an ideal world, I would like to see dicoumarol levels measured in red clover wines. But until then I believe it is safe for me to drink the wine I made.