Text: Kayo Arita
The third session of the Wild School Workshop is 'The Way to Edible Forests, Acorn Eating Part 2'.
This is a simultaneous experience of improving the soil environment in the forest and milling ancient wheat.
The event was held in November 2023 in the backyard of the former Makisato Elementary School in Midori-ku, Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture, with lecturers Mr Hirai, a forester working on environmental restoration, Dr Ikechiku, a plant doctor from Fujino, and Mr Kiyotomi Kuriyama, who is trying to grow ancient wheat naturally in Fujino.
In the morning, under the guidance of Mr Hirai and Mr Ikechiku, the participants will experience the improvement of the soil environment in the forest as usual.
We are preparing the devastated mountain environment so that edible forests can grow.
For the third time, the forest floor was covered with rusty bushes, and at first it was so difficult to move around, but finally a path was opened and it became possible to walk through!
With the path out of the way, the next round of forest maintenance will make more progress.
This is a big step forward, although it is hard to tell from some of the photos.
The last time we used organic wheat from Tsukui, which made for a very ingredient-based natural diet, but this afternoon's acorn food workshop started with milling 'ancient wheat' from Fujino on a stone mill.
For the October workshop we decided to cook mainly with arakashi, which had been well harvested but was still green and not fully ripe.
(*Arakashi is an evergreen broad-leaved tree of the genus Quercus in the beech family. It produces acorns that ripen in the autumn of the same year).
The Konara trees were previously collected by Dr Ikechiku, a botanical doctor, from one of the few trees with a good crop that he found after a day and a half of cycling, and we enjoyed comparing Arakashi and Konara trees.
(*The Japanese name Konara comes from its smaller leaves and acorns, meaning 'small oak', compared to the other large Japanese oak, the Mizunara, also known as the Oonara, or big oak.
We gratefully ate a mixture of stone-ground ancient wheat and acorns.
Even after grinding the ancient wheat hard for about an hour, the result was not even enough for a single meal.
I hadn't realised how hard it was to make flour.
This gives me the feeling that I should eat it with care.
The forest has changed a lot since our last maintenance workshop.
Finally, the next workshop will be held to prepare seedlings for planting in early spring.
Many participants said they could hardly wait for the next one.