The earth lay bare, scorched from the fire that ravaged it the year prior.
Yet, life remained still. New verdant sprouts scattered the ashy landscape like it was born anew. Most of the sprouts grew from the familiar nuts she so often collected and ate with her family, but a few charred tree skeletons remained, charcoal black and dry. She looked down at one, eyeing where the tree branched its roots into the soil and noticed vibrant clusters of young sprouts with oblong waxy leaves. Through it all, it was still alive. How many fires had this tree seen and lived through?
The Oregon Myrtle or California Bay Laurel is an indigenous and endemic tree to the southern Oregon and northern California region. (Endemic, meaning it only grows in this region) Many parts of the tree from the leaves, fruits, nuts, and wood have been used throughout its history including several indigenous uses as well as wildlife food and habitat. It is a sacred and resilient tree. Although not the same as the bay leaf that is commonly used in cooking, the leaves of the Oregon Myrtle also has been used for infusing it’s spicy herbal flavor into various food preparations. The tree also produces drupes, the fruit of the myrtle, that resembles a small avocado. Removing the outer flesh reveals a shelled nut the size of a hazelnut. Inside that shell is the Oregon Myrtle nut or the California Bay nut. Many indigenous tribes of the southern Oregon region roasted their foraged myrtle nuts using a hot coal method from the fire pit.
At Wild Coast Brew, we wild harvest myrtle nuts in the late fall. The outer flesh is removed and all shelled nuts are required to dry and cure for at least a month. After the nuts have finished the curing process, they are then roasted over high heat in the shell. This cooking process is necessary to cook off the bitter oil present in the nut. The nuts will start to take on a lovely chocolate coffee aroma as they roast. We halt the roasting process when the nuts are a dark brown. This is a delicate process that takes time and experience to get right. Nuts are grinded and processed into a finer grind for use in herbal infusions.
Truly from forest to cup.