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Discussion - Best Alternative Cereals

 
Kirk Hutchison
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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  I was wondering what everyone thought were the best wheat, corn, oats, etc. substitutes that work well in a no-till, forest garden sort of situation. Perennial grasses are good. Shrubs/trees are better. I hear that on the island of Corsica (part of France) they make flour out of ground chestnuts. Could you possibly make flour from other nuts (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc.)?
 
Kirk Hutchison
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Throwing a few things out there - honey locust, gingko, and beech.
 
                    
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Making flour from oily nuts is tricky - ends up more like a nut butter.

Amaranth is an annual, but  it tends to self-seed. The seed from one plant is enough for an acre.
 
                              
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Location: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
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Quinoa? Amaranth ?  some roots are sometimes used as a flour. for example arrowroot. another root is cassava.

and then there is sorghum grain. some varieties you can use for grain and sugar.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Mesquite flour is a traditional staple in much of the Southwestern US/Northern Mexico. North of the border, nutrition has changed drastically, and a terrible epidemic of type II diabetes has been the result. Not so, south of the border.

Acorn flour is the traditional staple near me. Another tree that grows well here, Western Redbud, also produces edible seeds, and they stay on the tree for a year or more. Some varieties of pinyon also grow well in this climate.

No-till grains would be a good option to have, especially in the short term when longer-lived plants aren't yet producing.

A clearing in a forest garden, with good southern exposure and mediocre soil, should be a good place to grow no-till wheat. From what I've read, you could find a pure winter wheat variety (not a mix of winter & spring), and sow around mid summer, by pressing one kernel into the soil about every square yard or so. I've read it grows to a shrub over a little more than a year's time, and its long life lets it produce very well despite (well, because of) the sparse sowing.

I've had good success with no-till spring wheat, too: spread wheat straw fairly deeply as mulch, then pick out seedlings from the little bunches that grow from the un-threshed heads, if you prefer them to be elsewhere or want to reduce crowding. They should be very small when you do this, preferably with roots only a couple inches long.

In warmer climates, there are perennial options within genera most people treat as annuals, such as runner beans and Seminole pumpkins. Breadfruit is very tricky to propagate, but I've read there have been spectacular advances in the past couple decades.

You could easily count apples as a staple crop. There are also cool-climate legume trees with edible seeds, like Siberian pea tree. Chestnut trees are becoming a better option, now that there are American varieties resistant to blight. In the extreme long run, I think it would be a good idea to breed alder trees to bear more-palatable and larger catkins, but that is probably a project for several generations.
 
Brenda Groth
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pick up a copy of this book if you can find it..it has a lot of optional cereals and flours from wild plants

isbn 0 8069 7488 5
edible wild plants a  north american field guide..an outdoor life book by sterling press

i use this book for all my foraging in spring, summer, fall and winter
 
Kirk Hutchison
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  From what I've heard, chestnuts produce like crazy. They sound pretty good to me.
 
tel jetson
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Kirk Hutchison wrote:
  From what I've heard, chestnuts produce like crazy. They sound pretty good to me.


the American chestnuts (Castanea dentata) we've got do, indeed, produce like crazy.  the trouble is processing them.  getting them out of the husk is easy enough, but dealing with the shell is a serious pain in the ass.  there's a commercial chestnut orchard near here.  they've got a mill that does the trick relatively well, but it was very expensive.

once they're out of the shell, grinding chestnuts to flour isn't much more difficult than grinding grains.  we use a hand-cranked grain mill and it works just fine.

chestnuts also take a while to begin producing, and even longer to reach their full potential.  I definitely recommend them, but there's going to be some patience involved.  grafted varieties will generally reach full production much faster.

chestnut is also a very useful and decay-resistant wood, especially American chestnut with it's taller and straighter growth habit.


how about perennial lupine (Lupinus perennis)?  easy to grow, easy to harvest, and pretty.  haven't tried it myself yet so I don't know how it tastes, but I will when the seeds are ripe this year.  other lupine species have been used as food since antiquity, albeit with some leaching in salt water to remove toxins.
 
Kirk Hutchison
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Perhaps a chestnut orchard inter-planted with perennial lupine. That way, you would have lupine until the chestnuts came into production, which would eventually shade out the lupine prompting its replacement with other forest plants.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I'm not sure lupine is appropriate as a staple crop, but I bet it will be an important contribution. Does anyone here know of a process that leaves lupine seeds mild enough to be 60% of one's calories?

The understory of your chestnut forest can include ramps, which will make a similarly important but strictly-limited (by defensive chemicals) contribution to calories.

Also, as the history of the chestnut illustrates, it's probably a good idea to have a mix of different trees.

I forgot to mention perennial grain crops, like the "Russian corn" rye variety that sepp holzer grows, or the perennial varieties of sorghum. These would probably be a good compliment to a perennial legume, and may well help nurse the chestnuts along. I believe there are perennial varieties of sunflower that also produce a reasonable number of food calories for the space they occupy, but I read somewhere that subsisting on sunflowers can lead to copper poisoning.

Have we mentioned hazelnuts yet? They're a traditional choice for hedges, and seem like a reasonable source of calories.

Cattails are probably also worth mentioning.
 
Kirk Hutchison
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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In that case, perhaps a mixture of chestnut species as the canopy, hazelnuts as the shrub layer, and a polyculture of sunflowers, 'Russian corn', lupine, and sorghum as the herbaceous layer. Maybe some pecan trees thrown in to add diversity (can you make pecan flour?)
 
Emil Spoerri
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buckwheat can self sow as well

catails can be ground into a flour

if you live in a hot dry area, how about carob?
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Rye will do best when a hard freeze kills its competitors. Sorghum will do best when the soil never falls below 50.

So the perennial sorghum would do well with banana, papaya, etc.; the Russian corn, with sugar maple, white oak, etc.
 
Emil Spoerri
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sorry, wrong thread
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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