The Forest Cuisine Project

The Forest Cuisine Project
True Nature Country Fair: September 20, 2010
Presenter and author: Zev Friedman, Living Systems Design

A. Project Summary The Forest Cuisine Project is helping to develop a unique regional cuisine for the southern Appalachians. This cuisine is informed by a historical understanding of the foods that the indigenous peoples ate, and by the foods traditionally eaten by European settlers and their descendants, but most of all by a fresh look at agricultural practices, and how any truly sustainable agriculture will be bioregional, growing crops that want to grow in the soils, climate and ecology of this place.

Forest cuisine offers the next step beyond local and organic foods, helping people to tangibly connect with the land through harvesting the bounty from forest farms, and through eating the plants, animals and fungi that grow here by default. Forest farmers take wild foods and cultivate them systematically on a larger scale. A forest cuisine will largely be based on perennial and forest crops (augmented by some of our familiar annual crops), foods which many of us are currently unfamiliar with, but which display a startling array of culinary possibilities. In the long run, forest agriculture requires less work and resources than annual agriculture, and it is superior in terms of ecological criteria such as topsoil retention, water quality, and wildlife habitat.

In addition, forest cuisine supports other forest management objectives, allowing for example the production and marketing of high value timber, native medicinal herbs, craft supplies, hunting, recreational and aesthetic forest preservation, habitat corridors and wildfire mitigation, and assisted adaptation to climate change, all on the same land. This diversification of objectives offers the prospect of numerous types of long-term employment and regional economic improvement, on both the supply and the marketing ends.

B. Benefits of Native Cuisine Project:
1) Strengthen local economy through long-term job creation, retaining additional food dollars in region, additional tourist attraction.
2) Allow small rural landowners to earn income from forested land without clear-cutting, thereby preserving the ecological value of land and promoting healthy urban growth patterns.
3) Develop long-term food security for the region
4) Ecological benefits derived from closed-loop agricultural practices that grow crops that want to grow here with few or no inputs, thereby preserving valuable soils while protecting water quality and wildlife habitat.
5) Revive the richness of regional identity through a coherent native cuisine supplied with special foods that we become famous for.

C. Guilds
i. What is a guild? A guild is our best attempt to learn patterns from natural ecosystems and imitate those patterns to form mutually beneficial poly-cultures that maximize diverse yields for humans. Whew!

ii. Any complete guild needs to involve:
a) Nitrogen fixers (kudzu, clovers, vetches, black locust, Eleagnus spp.)
b) Dynamic accumulators (burdock, comfrey, basswood) that accumulate and concentrate minerals from sub-soil, subsequently making the available to the rest of the soil and aboveground system
c) Insectory plants- pollen for pollinators, habitat for predators
d) Fungi- decomposers of dead plants, make insoluble minerals in soil available to plants
e) Animals- “the moveable parts of ecosystems”, concentrate, diffuse and move around nutrients, and provide extremely valuable foods and other yields

iii. Examples of plant guilds
a) Sugar maple, basswood, spice bush, hazelnut coppice, ginseng, ramp, groundnut guild
b) Kudzu, wineberry, stinging nettle, honey locust, elderberry, burdock guild
c) “Milpa”- corn, beans, squash, sunflower, chile, tomato, Cleomes, potato, sweet potato, tobacco, okra- grown as long-term rotation in the midst of managed forest

iv. Examples of multi-kingdom guilds (managed through time so not all of these species is producing at any given time): a) duck, King Stropharia, shiitake, oyster mushroom, mulberry, white oak, tulip poplar coppice b) Maitake, white oak, blueberry, black locust coppice, desert truffle, turkey, squirrel, elecampagne, strawberry, sochan

D. Forest Cuisine Ingredient Lists

1) Mushrooms a) Armillaria (honey mushroom) b) Entoloma abortivum c) Lactarius spp. d) Ganoderma tsugae tips e) Agaricus campestrus f) puffballs g) turkeytail h) native truffles i) Maitake (Hen-of-the-wood) j) Chicken-of-the-wood k) Morel l) Oyster m) chanterelle n) assorted boletes, o) lobster mushrooms

2) Animals a) elk b) feral boar c) squirrel d) bear e) pheasant f) Rattlesnake g) Grasshopper h) edible grubs i) crawdad j) goat k) pigeon l) chicken sheep m) mini-cows n) deer o) wild/heritage turkey p) rabbits q) trout r) bass s) groundhog t) raccoon u) grouse v) honey w) bee pollen s) bee larvae y) fish roe z) pigeon

3) Plants- Carbohydrates a) Indian cucumber b) dandelion c) chicory root d) dandelion root e) burdock f) kudzu root g) sunchokes h) white oak acorn i) chestnuts j) beechnuts k) chinquapin l) groundnut m) hog peanut, n) Solomon’s Seal tuber

4) Plants- Fats a) Beechnut b) pine nuts c) lambs quarter seed d) Amaranth spp. seed e) hazelnut f) hickory nuts g) Pecan h) Heartnut i) black walnuts j) butternuts k) Torreya nuts

5) Plants, greens and salads a) evening primrose b) Ramps c) day lilies d) Ox-eye daisy e) black locust flowers f) Giant Solomon’s Seal g) Debelleville sorrel h) redbud flower buds i) wisteria flowers j) amaranth spp. greens k) lambs quarter greens l) prickly pear cactus pads m) asparagus n) woods nettles.

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