Kea (Tzia) is an island located one hour off the mainland of Greece. This island’s mountainous landscape is dominated by old oak forests. The island itself is 57.4 square miles with abundant populations of oak trees and wild maple. The oaks are a central part of the islands history but the knowledge of there economic value was almost lost half a century ago. These oak hillsides supported farmers who were selling the acorn caps to leather tanneries and feeding the leafy fodder to the islands livestock but with industrial techniques for tanning leather their value diminished and the industry come to a halt.
Every October the annual acorn harvest begins! Intense harvesting lasts for two months. Marcie’s team is composed of herself, her powerhouse employee Freddi, and a smattering of volunteers from around the world. Ladders, nets and bamboo poles are all this squad needs to fill the truck with 600 kilos of acorns and caps in a day’s work. The nets are key for collecting the fallen nuts and greatly speed up the process of gathering and bagging them up. Collection occurs on private land and over public roads thanks to a negotiation with the Mayor of Kea. Wacking the tree is good for the tree’s health and acts as a natural pruning. Since Marcie has been interacting with the three in this way she has seen a notable improvement in the size of the nuts and the overall health of the trees.
The Quercus Ithaburensis subsp. Macrolepis is endemic to a few eastern European countries including Kea, a few other Cycladian islands, Southern Turkey, Albania and Bulgaria. The deciduous Oak forest is protected by the EU Natura 2000 protocol which is the largest network of protected areas in the world. It is valued for its high natural and cultural value for agroforestry. The Valonia Oak system across the Mediterranean is used only for grazing, especially by sheep. Finding added value of the forest will help resume its traditional uses for ecological purposes and the revival of the Valonia oak forest.
To bring back the acorn ecnoomy to Kea Marcie has started an initiative on Kea working with local farmers, providing them with a growing market and economic incentive to collect and sell acorn caps again. This year Marcie has an order for 500 tons of caps to fill. This is a major increase from 2014 where only 35 tons of acorn caps were collected and sold (Agforward, 2014). A crucial piece of her efforts are to expand the knowledge opportunity the value ensure that the oak trees will be protected rather than used for firewood!
These giant acorns each weigh about 25g and can reach up to 40g per nut! After a day of drying the sun the nuts are removed from their caps. The sensation of popping them out of their shell is incredibly satisfying. The nuts are collected for making flour. This year, Marcie will be producing 5 tons of flour for Oakmeal’s operations. This will require 20 tons of nuts. There is a one to four ratio of nuts to flour. The nuts loose mass during the solar drying process and nuts are sorted out because of pest infestation. Processing of these giant acorns into flour is intentionally designed to use minimal energy at every step. Marcie uses a solar drying tables to dry the nuts they become mold resistant. The dried nuts can be stored in bins for decades making them an incredibly stable staple food. Marcie hopes this incredible food will make it's way back in the hearts of mind of Greece and the world!
Hope you enjoy EP 18,
Thanks for your support!