Birds song and pollen in the air these days, and many folks wonder “what are these caterpillar-like things all over the ground?” Some of those are spent oak catkins (other trees such as birch and willow produce catkins too). Other fun oak facts & folklore.
Oaks are monoecious – a single oak tree produces both male flowers (in the form of “catkins”) hanging down to allow wind to take their pollen to any receptive female flowers on another branch of the same tree, or any oak flower in the vicinity. Female flowers are harder to spot and appear (where you would expect a bud to be) as a fuzzy three-lobed stigma with an egg shaped ovary beneath. Thanks to Bob Klips for posting this great image of a female oak flower.
Though oaks (the flowering plant genus Quercus) include some of America’s most ecologically and economically important trees (approximately 255 “new world” lineage – of an estimates over 600 worldwide) and provide significant ecosystem services (woody plant biomass, biodiversity, ecology and nutrient cycling), the biodiversity of this genus is poorly understood. Andrew Hipp, Senior Scientist at the Morton Arboretum studies the basic question of how oak traits, distributions, and diversity evolve in response to changes in habitat and climate. For more information about his “quercky” work – see the Morton Arboretum Lab site.
female oak flowers
male oak flowers (catkins)
May everyone have an awesome and allergy free spring experience!
If you can’t plant a tree, at least go out and hug one – they literally make it possible for us to breathe – among other things.
Thanks to Bill Whipple, Tom Celona and the folks of the Nutty Buddy Collective, the New England Acorn Cooperative has 18 special oak saplings to plant this spring. If all goes well, they will be producing acorns the size of golfballs in a couple decades.
In honor of Arbor Day, two of these special oaks are going to the Eleanor Bradley Estate to be planted as part of an educational walk on the grounds tomorrow with Tim Ryan and Danielle McDonald. The rest are shared out to cooperative members throughout New England, along with a plethora of acorns collected and shared by Trustees Horticulturalist of the Ames and Bradley Estates Jeff Thompson – thank you Jeff!
Permaculture students of one field or another, we are following suggestions that it is also the “right” time (lunarly) to plant ’em for the planet. Thanks to Myles Green and Alvin Kho for sorting nuts (and sharing acorn bread, fresh juice, and lovely yummy cheeses) last week in preparation.
“Between New Moon and Full Moon… you can plant any plant that produces fruit and seeds. In the orchard, plant trees. Planting by the moon phases Calendar for April 2017”
Cycles of the moon have influenced planting historically in cultures all over the world… Permaculture co-originator David Holmgren’s writes:
“good design depends on a free and harmonious relationship to nature and people, in which careful observation and thoughtful interaction provide the design inspiration, repertoire and patterns.”
New moon also the time to plant ideas… What do you think?
Thoughts become things…get growing!
Check out what the Nutty Buddies are up to with their Acornucopia project, indeed a go!
As soon as Carol shared the story of Lithuanian Acorn Coffee, Deb processed the first batch and shared the creamy nutty taste (and then a short workshop) with me. It’s time consuming, but what a delicious and fragrant hot beverage! Powerful refreshment – no caffeine
Instructions for New England Cooperative Acorn Coffee (Lithuanian Style):
1 cup dried, hulled, and cracked acorn (too-large pieces won’t leach well) into the pot with 3 cups whole milk.
Bring to boil then lower flame/heat to simmer for an hour – stirring regularly so acorns don’t burn on the bottom. The mixture will thicken considerably. Enjoy the caramel smells, but don’t taste, well I now know… yuck-o!
Cool enough so it is not a burn danger then pour “porridge” through colander – use cheesecloth if you don’t have a wire one so you don’t lose small bits) and rinse thoroughly (rub with fingers or wooden spoon to free clingy bits) under warm to cool water to remove all milky substance that has tannins bound in it. Remember, smells good, tastes horrible – down the drain or compost with all milk by-product…
Pat milk-boiled acorn bits dry and transfer to skillet to slow roast til they are toasty-brown.
Cool and store until you’re ready to make a cup. Use coffee grinder to pulverize.
To make acorn coffee, take 1 part water and 2 parts sweet cream or milk. Add 3 teaspoons of acorn grounds into the boiling liquid, and boil for 2-3 minutes.
Add more milk or cream and sugar to taste.
May you be healthy, may you be happy, may you live with ease!
This change of season highlights the cycle we are in. As we plan clean-up activities for Earth Day and planting oak saplings on Arbor Day this spring, we consider our eventual return to earth too…
The Acorn Cooperative’s mission includes education for care and repair of the earth, and we have learned that one of the most heinous polluters of our ground and water are the unnecessary chemicals and materials used in “modern” burial practices…
Natural or Green Burial is a growing art and science. Please, take time to educate yourself about how much good you can do by planning responsibly. Thank you Marcie for sharing this lovely company’s idea for gentle return – versus needless toxic chemicals, steel, wood and concrete in mother earth…
Behold, an Acorn Urn.
For more information about natural or green burial try: New England Green Funeral the Green Burial Council. Also, be aware of Home Funeral arrangements, it can be a most healing process.
Take heart, take root
Much love to current and new Cooperative Friends who started 2017 with wonderful acorn food based gatherings, dinners, birthdays and breakfasts – and are working to create more community education opportunities and resources… Recipes to follow (soon)!