foraging wild food

The Might Valley Oak (Quercus lobata)

This year the mighty Valley Oaks, (Quercus lobata), are taking a rest from acorn production. Last year we had a bumper crop, or a masting, where it’s acorn foraging heaven.
This year virtually zero acorns are being produced. I’ve found acorns on only a few trees, and most of them are full of worms (weevil larvae.)

“Is this a bad year for acorns?” I get asked this type of question a lot. For Valley Oaks, (the only really available human forage producer here), the question itself is incorrect. It would better be asked, “is this a year for the Valley Oak acorns?” For as surprising as it is, these trees over hundreds of miles of California are are pretty much on the same cycle. They’ll either all fruit heavily, or none of them fruit at all. Thousands and thousands of trees over hundreds of miles! I think that’s incredible! There are only a few exceptions to either scenario. There are exceptions, but they are safely less than 10%, my personal data shows that they are less than 1%. So I use definitive terms such as “all” and “zero”, but these terms equate to very few or the vast majority. I use them to emphasize the feeling of extremeness of the scarcity and abundance of the different years.

So is it a bumper year or a zero year? This year, it’s a zero, as we had a bumper year last year. You do not get bumpers in consecutive years.
The cycles since I’ve been personally observing have gone like this:
2004 — huge crop (nobody seem to notice but me)
2005 — virtually none
2006 — virtually none
2007 — huge crop (articles in the paper about it, lots of people talking about it)
2008 — virtually none
2009 — huge crop (momentum continued. Saw high school kids for schoolwork out gathering acorns, more articles written and classes taught about acorns.)

Let’s pray that 2011 brings us the blessings of this amazing food!