Posts tagged kernels

Nuts about acorns

  Marion Patterson learned  foraging skills from her parents while growing up in New Hampshire. She’s carried on some of those traditions in Cedar Rapids, where she and her husband, Rich Patterson – director of the Indian Creek Nature Center – reside.

   With abundant oak trees on their property, the Pattersons have put their acorns to use in recipes that Marion brought from her parents, Yvonne and Les Fellows, to whom credit for the following recipes go.

 

   First, the acorns must be processed. Marion notes that with acorns from white oaks, especially, the acorns must be gathered shortly after they’ve fallen. Wait a week or more and the acorns will already be sprouting or will have a worm-like insect in them. (She described acorns from red oaks as a pain in the neck – smaller and more bitter than other varieties –  so white, burr or chestnut oak acorns are preferable.) If you cannot process them right away, they need to be stored in the freezer until you can work with them.

 

   Slice the acorns in half to get to the “meat” inside. Marion uses pruning shears to slice the acorns open, but welcomes any advice from others who may use a better method. Use a nutpick to pry the meat out of the shell. “This is not for the faint-hearted,” she notes.

 

   Put the nut meats in boiling water and keep pouring out and changing the water. Marion does this four to five times per batch “until I get tired of it,” she says. Boil about 15 minutes; drain off the water; add new water; boil another 15 minutes and so on. Drain last time and then…

 

   Spread the nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet, preferably one with edges. Place in a low-heat oven, set at 225 degrees, and flip or stir every 15 to 20 minutes. Do this for 2-3 hours. “The important thing is that they are dry,” Marion says. Take the pan out, and leave out overnight, uncovered, to cool. The nut meats can be stored at room temperature in a glass jar with a lid for a long time – “indefinitely,” Marion says. Don’t try to eat them as nuts as they’ll break your teeth, she adds. The nuts could be used in stews, which softens the kernels.

 

   To use them in other recipes, use a meat grinder or flour grinder, not a blender, to process into flour.  The flour looks a bit like sand – an earthy brown color. Don’t directly substitute the flour for white flour in recipes, as the acorn flour is heavier and has a more intense flavor. Plus, you’d quickly go through the small batch that comes from  that long and hard acorn processing. For recipes that call for 2 cups of flour, such as quick bread recipes, Marion uses 1/4th cup of acorn flour and mixes it with other types of flour.

 

   Here are two of the recipes that came from Marion’s parents:

 

Acorn muffins:

 

Wet ingredients:

1 beaten egg

1 cup milk

2 tbsp vegetable oil

¼ cup of honey

¼ cup of molasses

1 tsp. vanilla

 

Dry ingredients:

¼ cup sugar

1&3/4 cup of flour

¼ cup acorn flour

2 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

 

Mix wet and dry ingredients separately, then mix together gently until just moist. Lumps are OK. Grease muffin tins. Fill 2/3 full. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm with honey and butter.

 

Boston Steamed Brown Bread

(A staple of Saturday night suppers in New England – best served with hot dogs and baked beans.)

 

1&1/2 cup wheat flour

1&1/4 cup white flour

¼ cup acorn flour

¾ tsp baking soda

2&1/2 tsp baking powder

1&1/2 tsp salt (or less)

¾ cup molasses

1 cup water

¾ cup milk

Raisins, if desired

 

Mix ingredients. Grease 16-ounce metal can (emptied from soup, etc.) Put aluminum foil over each can, with rubber band or tie around each. This batch makes about 4 cans. Marion uses her pressure cooker with water she’s boiled from a tea pot. Water should go about halfway up the cans. Place on stovetop with lid on and keep at a low heat for 2-3 hours. You could also use a large pot with a good lid. Water should be boiling at first, but then reduce heat and steam for 2-3 hours.

Advertisements

Comments (4) »

Not so sweet pest

Entomologist Donald Lewis, of Iowa State University Extension, offers the following information about the bane of sweet corn:

One of the pure pleasures of summertime in Iowa is eating sweet corn fresh from the garden or farmers market. To the dismay of gardeners, growers and sweet corn aficionados, however, there is the matter of an occasional pest to consider. The most important and best known insect pest of sweet corn in Iowa is the pudgy, hairless “worm” found at the tip of an infested ear, the corn earworm.

Corn earworms come in a variety of colors, ranging from light green, to tan, brown, pink or nearly black. The caterpillar’s body is marked with light and dark stripes running lengthwise and the skin texture is coarse due to microscopic spines that cover the surface.  Earworms are only in the ear for three to four weeks but during that short time they grow to nearly 1 .5 inches in length.  Infestations may be present throughout the summer but are generally worse in late summer.

Unlike hardy residents of the state the corn earworm does not survive Iowa winters.  Instead moths that lived and grew in southern states on either corn or cotton last year are blown here during May and June each year to reinfest the state.

These recent-arrival-moths fly after sunset and reproduce by depositing their eggs on the fresh, green silks of the sweet corn ear. These eggs hatch in two to six days and within an hour the tiny, young larvae crawl into the silk channel and move to the tip of the developing ear. The larvae feed on the silk and developing kernels and foul the ear with excrement.  About three weeks after silking the sweet corn is ready to harvest and eat, and there, waiting for you at the end of the ear is the much-grown earworm caterpillar.

The amount of corn earworms in the sweet corn crop varies from place to place, from year to year and with the time of the year.  Mostly the damage is determined by the number of moths in the vicinity which depends on the weather and other factors. Some varieties of sweet corn are more or less susceptible to earworm attack, and genetically modified varieties are available that produce their own defense against caterpillar attack.

Growers and gardeners who want “clean” sweet corn must work to prevent the earworms from getting into the silks. If the caterpillars are already crawling toward the ear tip it is too late to stop them. A typical preventive management strategy is to spray insecticide on the corn ears throughout the entire period when green silks are present. 

Insecticides for the home gardener include azadirachtin (Neem), Bacillus thuringiensis, carbaryl (Sevin), or permethrin. Spray at the first sign of silk emergence (one or two days after tassels appear) and again two days later after silks have elongated. For complete protection, especially in later plantings, spray a third time three days after the second spray.  After the silks turn brown there is no benefit to spraying.  

Admittedly, this is an extensive amount of insecticide but it is currently the most practical method for assuring worm-free sweet corn.  The alternative is to not treat at all.  Instead, cut off the damaged tip of infested ears and enjoy the remainder of the ear.

Leave a comment »