Acorns helped LA’s indigenous people through the winter |  Greater LA

Acorns helped LA’s indigenous people through the winter | Greater LA

It’s easy to forget that LA’s dense urban environment is surrounded by nature, as is the Angeles National Forest, which overlooks downtown LA from the San Gabriel Mountains.

Before settlers paved it over, Native American tribes had lived in and around the LA basin for many centuries. Their descendants remain, and some still continue ancient tribal traditions, such as gathering acorns, which were very significant in the traditional diet of Native American communities throughout California.

Heidi Lucero is the tribal chairman of the Juaneńo Band of Mission Indians of the Acjachemen Nation. She says her strain “used to eat it in a puree, similar to Cream of Wheat or Malt-O-Meal, and it would be served hot at every meal.”

To prepare the acorns, Lucero explains, Native Americans would first fry them to kill snout beetles that ate any of the nuts. They would then need the nuts and grind them into flour. She says acorns have tannic acid in them and are too bitter to eat right out of the shell. To remove the tannic acid, indigenous peoples washed out the flour and rinsed the tannic acid out with water in a stream or stream.

“It’s definitely a cumbersome process,” Lucero says. “But when you have something that can last through the winter season, it is really worth having it as a food source. It is something that can be stored. And it’s definitely worth making the acorn soup or wiiwish. “


Heidi Lucero demonstrates to Lila Higgins how to make wiiwish, the traditional Native American porridge or soup made from acorn flour and water. Photo by Christian Bordal.

There are many types of oak trees and their nuts have slightly different properties. Lucero’s favorite acorn comes from Black Oak. “It’s the cutest thing. There’s a lot of fat in it, so it has a nice creamy texture.”

Lila Higgins, senior director of social sciences at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles County, enjoys the relationships that oak trees have with other species.

“They provide so much habitat and home and food for so many other species. The plaice that has a handsome red cap and laughs a lot, you will see them gather acorns, and sometimes you will see these giant grain magazines with small holes where they has put acorns in. And then there are fungi that grow on the oak trees. ”

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Juaneńo Band of Mission Indians Tribal Chair Heidi Lucero (right) and Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Community Science Manager Lila Higgins (left) forage for acorns near the Haramokngna American Indian Cultural Center in the Angeles National Forest. Photo by Steve Chiotakis.

Despite large canopies of oak trees, Lucero and Higgins could only find cracked nuts from previous years – nothing fresh. Lucero says there may be several reasons for the lack of nuts this season, all of which have to do with climate change, including severe droughts and fires.

It is good that Lucero brought some ready-made acorn flour, which had already been ground and washed out with water to remove the tannic acid. To make wiiwish, she cooks it on a portable stove with a little water. It thickens quickly and looks like Cream of Wheat. Traditionally, she says, tribes would have eaten the acorn soup or bog along with game, such as rabbit, deer, or fish.

Sometimes she likes to add a little salt or honey. On a cold winter day during the holidays, wiiwish tastes just right.

Heidi Lucero, tribal chairman of the Juaneńo Band of Mission Indians of the Acjachemen Nation, demonstrates how she breaks an acorn. Photo by Christian Bordal.

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