Akiva Silver's new book, Trees of Power, offers a really inspirational look at how the trees that are all around us can provide us with untapped income, food and more. This has been one of my favorite books that I've read this year (and I've read over 150 so far!). I thought I'd share some of the review I put up on our family homesteading/foraging blog here in case others were interested.
Silver shows how the ten trees featured are phenomenally good for homesteaders and for the world at large. For example, he writes that hickory nuts produce a delicious oil that we could easily be using for cooking, and the nuts are just rotting at our feet by the billions. An expensive nut press is needed to make the oil but he points out that every town used to have a mill and a press and people would just bring their crops to use it. That really makes sense. Everyone doesn’t need a press, just communities or cooperatives.
He says, “Everyone I have offered a taste of the oil to looks up at me in surprise and says something like: ‘Wow’ or ‘Oh my God.'”
Here is a hickory tree that we don’t have to shell to enjoy. Here is a vegetable oil raining down from the sky in enormous quantities. A 5-gallon bucket of nuts in the shell will yield 1/4 gallon of oil. I have filled 5-gallon buckets of bitternuts in as little as 30 minutes. This tree is offering a tremendous gift, if we can only see it. When a million gallons of high-quality vegetable oil fall on the ground and we ignore it and plow up the earth to grow rapeseed (for canola oil), there is a disconnect. The soil suffers, wildlife suffers, and we do, too. The time is here for us to use hickory oil.
This is how I feel about acorns and why I wrote a book about foraging and cooking with acorns (aff link: Acorn Foraging) They are literally going to waste under our feet by the billions while we grow crops for flour and food that’s not even as nutritious or tasty as what acorns produce (after the bitter tannins are leached out). He doesn’t write about acorns/oaks but he does include elderberries in his 10 favorite trees — another of my favorites and one I've also written about (aff link: The Beginner's Guide to Foraging, Preserving and Using Elderberries). And while I am very familiar with some of the other trees he writes about, such as apples, I really want to look for more information on some of the others he profiles, both as a forager and as an urban homesteader.
The ten trees featured in Trees of Power are:
Chestnut: The Bread Tree
Apples: The Magnetic Center
Poplar: The Homemaker
Ash: Maker of Wood Mulberry: The Giving Tree
Elderberry: The Caretaker
Hickory: Pillars of Life
Hazelnut: The Provider
Black Locust: The Restoration Tree
Beech: The Root Runner
We really need to start teaching about all of the wonderful food (and other gifts) that surround us and are so much better for the earth than our current practices. This book is a fantastic introduction to how we can do this with just these ten species of trees that are already all around us.
Silver is a passionate environmentalist and he raises some wonderful points. One statement that he makes early in the book resonated with me especially — that as environmentalists we need to abandon the goal of trying to “wreck the world slower.” He points out that most of our changes only cause harm more slowly than the current systems and are less awful for the environment. He says he doesn’t want to wreck the world at all but wants to actually improve the world. Now that’s a goal we all need to switch to.
This is a phenomenal book and it’s one I highly recommend for anyone interested in permaculture, homesteading, climate change or (obviously) trees.
Trees of Power has the potential to do exactly what Silver says he wants to do — not wreck the world slower but make the world a whole lot better. And along the way, it shows how trees can make our own lives a whole lot better, too. Highly recommended.
It's rare i manage to finish a book, i devoured this one in like a week! What a great find. Nice story of his life interwoven into super important very interesting information about trees, written in a very accessible way. Made me laugh, wonder , sad , happy and all those emotions usually not attached to "boring" trees. It made me determined that trees are what we need to busy ourselves with for a sustainable future even more and go on a journey to help make that happen. Ten acorns, ten chestnuts and ten apples i give this book. Thank you Akiva Silver!
Creating edible biodiversity and embracing everlasting abundance.
Agreed. Ten acorns, ten chestnuts and ten gallons of bitternut oil for this book! Combined with a bag of fresh chestnuts from Oregon, it got me fired up to have another go at chestnut planting...and reminded me why I planted Shagbark Hickory trees.
It's written in a similar format to Michael Judd's book about pawpaws: with questions about propagation, soil types, diseases, management etc. broken out into headline paragraphs for easy reading and review.
I would only disagree with Mr. Silver about chestnut grafting: I have it on very good authority that proper grafts do not fail. That said, same authority has been researching and grafting for 20 years, unlike most nurseries and propagators.
So it takes a day for light to pass through this glass? So this was yesterday's tiny ad?