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This one of a kind chocolate bar contains the nuts of the California Bay Laurel Tree, Umbellularia California. This tree is a native species in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, and is related to the avocado family. Although abundant, bay trees are not cultivated, so all the nuts in this bar have been wild harvested. Bay nuts are consumed by the indigenous peoples of the California coast. They are an important staple, because once dried they store well for many years. Before consumption, the nuts were traditionally roasted in ashes, producing an aroma similar to popcorn and coffee. It is our hope that by sharing this bar we promote knowledge of and stewardship of California coast traditions and ecology.
Bay nut season is typically in October-November. You can gather bay nuts once fallen from the tree, or while still on the tree, once they are ripe and have turned purple. Next the fruit needs to be removed, then the nuts need to be rinsed in water, and then the nuts dried need to be dried for an extended period of time. Caution: bay nuts must be roasted before consuming!
How to Roast Bay Nuts
Roasting bay nuts take a little bit of skill to get them just right, so if you want to try it at home, here are some suggestions. 1) Make sure the bay nuts are properly dried first, minimum two weeks to one month. 2) You'll want a fairly high roasting temperature, in the range of 425F-450F, to remove the volatile oils, otherwise the bay nuts can turn out bitter. 3) You'll want to pay close attention so that the nuts don't over-roast. The difference between a perfect roast and a burnt roast can be less than 60 seconds. Well roasted nuts will appear light brown to dark brown, depending on your taste. 4) For even roasting in an oven, make sure that you stir the nuts as often as possible. We've used a home coffee roaster with a rotating barrel quite successfully. Also roasting the nuts in their shell can result in a more even roast. 5) Roast nuts only as needed for consumption. They store much better unroasted.
Sustainable Harvest: Approaching Wildcrafting with Knowledge and Intent by Steven Edholm and Tamara Wilder.