Fall Wild Feast

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Fall Native Foods


The fall brings an abundance of native food and beverages from our beloved gardens. As regular vegetable gardens start to wind down, many of the native plants begin producing.


One of my favorite foods to gather with my family is Oak nuts (Acorns). All species of Quercus have edible nuts when properly prepared. I dry and store the nuts for the winter and then use as them as a gluten-free flour after leaching out the bitter tannins. Classes of 4th-graders at my son’s school love pounding the acorns open with rocks and I always have a hard time getting them to stop. The same thing happens when adults get their hands on acorns and two rocks.


Manzanita Cider is a traditional drink of California, enjoyed by indigenous inhabitants in many parts of the state. Although all species have edible berries, I use Arctostaphylos viscida, since it is abundant in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada where I live. The cider is easy to make, high in antioxidants and naturally sweet. Fill a blender with the dry berries and grind on low-medium for about a minute. This is a modern technique to crush the berries and expose the sweet powder, without crushing up the large seeds. Cover the crushed berries with cold water and soak for several hours to overnight. Strain and enjoy cold or hot.


The tart, lemon-like flavor of Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is delicious as a drink or a sorbet, packed with the extra vitamin C we need in the fall and winter. The basic recipe for making tea is to bring four cups of water to a boil, turn off the heat, and add two cups of Fir tips. Let steep for 10 minutes and then strain out Fir needles. Making vegan, Fir tip sorbet just requires a little more steeping time and an ice cream maker.


The leaves of Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon californicum) taste like nothing else and it’s a flavor that people either love or hate. Though bitter when chewed, if sucked, they stay sweet and quench the thirst. Western physicians valued Yerba Santa as a remedy for coughs, pneumonia and bronchitis and listed it in the official manual for doctors, the U.S. Pharmacopoeia, in 1894. At least seven indigenous groups in California relied upon it as a tea for colds and congestion. I prefer to take my medicine in the form of desert, so I developed a recipe for raw chocolates made from Yerba Santa.


A walk through the woods in fall wouldn’t be the same without the taste of Madrone berries (Arbutus menziesii). I gather from the base of the tree and eat raw, dry and grind into a spice, or make into a cranberry sauce substitute for our Thanksgiving celebration.


Native foods connect me with the place I call home and give me a delicious reason to treasure, tend and grow California’s native cuisine.




Collect berries in summer.

1-gallon jug
8-quart pot
1 packet dry wine yeast Fliptop bottles

Iodine (for sterilizing)

4 quarts Manzanita Cider (see page 93 for recipe) 2 lbs raw cane sugar

Makes 1 gallon. Ready to drink in 2 months.


– Pour cider into pot, add 2 pounds of sugar and allow to simmer until sugar dissolves.

  • –  Let cider cool and use a small amount of iodine to sterilize jug.
  • –  Pour into sterilized gallon jug and add yeast.
  • –  Seal airlock and store in a cool location, 65 – 75o.
  • –  Let the cider bubble for approximately a month. After 
the bubbling subsides, allow to sit for another week.
  • –  Siphon the cider into sanitized bottles, avoiding the 
yeast that has settled on the bottom of the jug.
  • –  Seal bottles and allow cider to sit for another 2 weeks or more for added flavor.[77]

OAK NUT FINANCIERS Gather oak nuts in fall.

5 tbsp butter
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/3 cup Oak nut flour (see page 108 for recipe)
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1⁄4 tsp baking powder
4 egg whites
1⁄2 tsp vanilla extract
optional: elderberries, blackcap raspberries, raspberries,

walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts cheesecloth-lined sieve financier molds


– Prepare the financier molds by brushing with melted butter and then place in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 425o.

  • –  Sift the flour, baking powder, confectioners sugar and oak nut flour into a large bowl and stir to evenly distribute the ingredients.
  • –  Melt 5 tbsp of butter in a saucepan. Once it has melted, start whisking the butter until it starts to boil. Continue cooking the butter, whisking as necessary to stop the solids from burning, and gradually the butter will change in color to a light brown. Remove from the heat and cool for a few minutes.
  • –  Strain the brown butter (beurre noissette) through
the cheesecloth-lined sieve into the dry ingredients. Immediately, add half the egg whites and the vanilla extract and mix until combined.
  • –  Stir in the remainder of the eggs whites.
  • –  If adding fruit, spoon a small amount of batter into 
each mold and then place fruit in the mold and top with a layer of batter. If adding nuts, spoon batter into molds and then arrange nuts on top.
  • –  Place the molds in the oven and reduce the temperature to 350o. Bake petit four financiers for
7 – 8 minutes; larger ones for about 20 A skewer inserted into the financier will come out clean when they are done. 
NOTE Financiers are small oblong-shaped cakes and allegedly the name came about because the cake was popular in the financial district of Paris and because the traditional shape resembles a gold ingot.[140]




Collect young tips in spring.
  • 2 cups fresh Fir tips, chopped
  • 1 tbsp honey (if desired)
  • Fliptop bottles
  • 1 quart jar
  • 2 tsp sugar
2 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
  • Cloth to cover jar rubber band
Make a Ginger Starter (called a “Bug”) 1 week ahead. – Put all ingredients into a quart jar and fill to the top 
with water.
    • –  Daily, for 7 days, feed your starter 2 teaspoons sugar 
and 2 teaspoons chopped ginger. Keep jar covered 
with cloth and rubber band.
    • –  When bubbles form and start to make sounds, the 
starter is ready. Strain 1 cup to make soda and keep 1⁄4 cup for a new starter. For a new starter, add the starter ingredients to 1⁄4 cup reserved starter and follow method again.
  • –  Let sit in warm location for 2 – 5 days and test
for flavor. If desired, let sit longer to create more carbonation and less sweetness. Open lids to let air out of bottles once a day.
  • –  Keep refrigerated. Strain when serving and garnish with fresh Fir tips.


  • 3 cups water


  • 1 cup sugar


1 quart fresh or frozen Douglas-Fir tips plus a few extra to
  • use as garnish
  • – Bring water and sugar to a boil, stir, and turn off heat.
  • – Add Fir tips and steep covered for 30


  • – Keep liquid and strain out Fir tips.


  • – Chill overnight in refrigerator.


  • – Freeze in ice cream maker according to
  • manufacturer’s directions.
– Garnish sorbet with extra Fir tips and serve.


(Raw, Vegan) Collect leaves in fall. 
1 cup raw cacao butter, melted
1⁄2 – 1 cup raw cacao powder
1⁄4 – 1⁄2 cup powdered, dried Yerba Santa leaves 
(or substitute with coyote mint leaves) 1⁄4 cup raw, local honey
Sea salt to taste
4 Silicon molds 
– Melt cacao butter in the sun.
– Add cacao powder and stir until smooth. – Slowly stir in Yerba Santa powder.
– Add raw honey and sea salt, mixing well. – Spoon into silicon molds and freeze for at 
least an hour.
– Remove and serve. Store in the refrigerator.[94] 
NOTE Use more or less honey depending on desired sweetness. Makes approximately 60



Collect berries in late fall.

13⁄4 cup fresh Madrone berries (stems removed) 1⁄4 cup fresh Toyon berries (stems removed)
1 cup water
1⁄2 cup apple juice

1⁄2 cup honey
1 tbsp arrowroot or organic cornstarch 1 tbsp grated orange zest


– Mix berries, water, apple juice and honey in a pan and bring to a boil.

  • –  Simmer for 15
  • –  Stir arrowroot or cornstarch into 2 tbsp apple juice.
  • –  Pour into berries and stir constantly while bringing 
to a boil.
  • –  Remove from heat and add orange zest.
  • –  Allow to cool before serving. Store in refrigerator for 
Madrone berries, simmer 1 cup Toyon berries, 1 cup water, 1 cup apple juice and 1⁄2 cup honey and then follow the same recipe.