Acorns & Ancient Ways
Scrap Kitchen 24- Mabon celebrations, an incoming frost and a watery full moon
Wow it’s really all happening at once.
Astrologically, this week has quite a bit going on. The full moon and the autumnal equinox are coinciding, creating a pretty chilly but beautiful feeling. From now on the days get even shorter and the nights become (hopefully) cozy.
Up here in Colorado, there is a frost hurtling towards us. Preparations have been made but as you read this we will probably entering into our longest day yet. The squash that have taken over the lower part of our farm are likely to bit hit hard by the frost so they need to be harvested and stored before tonight. So here we go…
What strikes me is how connected to tradition this moment feels. Falling on almost precisely the day when we would be celebrating Mabon. In Celtic traditions the equinox was the time of the second harvest, autumn preparations and in some cases casting protections for the year to come.
But saying this, Mabon itself is not ancient. The name was coined in the 1970s after the ancient Welsh hero named Mabon ap Modron. It is the middle of the harvest festivals and while new, its traditions run much deeper. Now is the time of collective harvest, storing food and beginning to wind the fuck down for winter. As a seed saver (working on a seed farm) it is also the time of collecting the resources for next year, not just the ones that will help you make it through the winter. Every day there is a new seed collect and now our house is filled with buckets of beans, peas and otherwise. Ready for processing. I assume in pre-industrial times, cleaning and sorting of seed would be a winter activity one for firelight and warm drinks. A task I am certainly looking forward to.
For now though, Mabon is awash with abundance and this time, though frantic, feels right. We’re enlisting the help of local friends to get the mammoth squash harvest done in time and I am hoping after will be time for a little merryment. We will soon be harvesting apples and incorporating them and sweet spices into all our cooking. The corn (though small) is certainly ready. And the light in the mornings casts such long shadows as it burns off the cold haze. All of these small shifts, towards a slower time are more than welcome. And yet next year is suddenly on the horizon.
This weeks tarot card is the Two of Swords, the creation of space for thoughts. Between the deep blue of night and the corners of the card itself, the swords create a barrier, keeping things both out and in. Ask yourself: what boundaries am I creating? How can I be discerning with my thoughts? How can I make space for them? What am I missing in the inky night?
When looking into ways to celebrate Mabon the suggestion to decorate my altar with Acorns came up several times. This got me thinking about my next great frontier foraging wise; Acorn bread.
Acorns, while not immediately edible are said to have been a staple of our ancestors. With over 600 species of oak globally, they are one of the most easily identifiable trees and their seeds (Acorns) are pretty iconic. However if you are in North America, make sure you are not collecting Buckeye nuts which look remarkably similar when they are our of their shell. These nuts also look pretty similar to horse chestnuts (conkers) so keep an eye out there.
Anyways, the real sticking point with Acorns is the high presence of tannic acid. Tannic acid is also present in teas, wines and dried fruit. It has a distinct taste but in high concentrations, such as in Acorns it can cause constipation at the very least. To get rid of the tannins acorns are brought to the boil, then the water poured off and replaced in successive rounds until the water no longer becomes brown (like tea). Before boiling it is best to get to the “nut meat” by cracking open the acorns. To do this you can ether dry them out to make the smashing process a little easier or go at them with some nut-crackers or a rolling pin. Apparently using year old acorns allows them to dry fully and also works as a great storage of food. If you don’t want to wait years, make sure you are picking the driest, brownest, most mature looking acorns and just give them a good whack.
After leaching out the tannins, acorns can be set to dry overnight or on low and slow in the oven. From there, just pop them in the blender and Acorn flour is all yours. Not only can you make bread but porridge and pancakes too. Once the squash are safe, I can’t wait to try all of these.
This week’s podcast episode is a pretty interesting one. It discusses the use of Social Media as place of creation, reflection and intention. I really loved the reframing of the digital space as an alter, a way to project and connect.
Thanks to everyone who is reading this, next week should be a little more scrap and a little more kitchen. But for now, please like, comment, share this bitch etc. And for those of you who have been, thank you so much. If you have collected any of the plants I’ve talked about or made any of the recipes I would always love to hear how they went.
Until then, stay scrappy
Image credit: Annie Spratt, Kerstin Wrba, Joвана Младеновић, and me
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Processed the last of the damsons....it will be good not to be splashed in the face by molten jam for a while! (Yep, I used a huge preserving pan but it was like a volcano) Crab apples are nearly ready, I think I’ll leave the jam/jelly and go for the less volatile crabapple wine option (I’m hoping the volatility will be in the finished wine) Your squash mountain looked fantastic. Let me know about any acorn experiments...there’s still a prejudice here among some older people because you had to be right at the “bog end “ (my neighbour’s phrase) of poverty to forage acorns!