Vannoccio Biringuccio's Pirotechnica (1540) and Agricola's De Re Metallica (1556) both cover some late period ways of either charcoal and/ or saltpeter.  Saltpeter was made with a mixture of lime, ashes, and nitrogen bearing manures which were leached like ashes were for lye and then boiled down until the liquid dropped out saltpeter crystals.  I haven't followed the web trails recently presented here but I question (but don't discredit) some of the simpler methods presented.  Saltpeter is one of those alchemical processes I am wishing to do and I have made quicklime and have sieved manure from my old barn which await processing as well as a stock of ashes.  I have not had quicklime or time as of yet to do the processing.

On 10/8/2013 11:25 PM, john heitman wrote:
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Gerald, not for OUR period.  Can document it to the Revolutionary War.  But only because I haven't bothered to look further (mainly because I haven't had reason.)

On Tue, Oct 8, 2013 at 1:32 PM, Beth Trevor <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
Acorns also make Ozark squirrels taste like oak smells.  Yuck!  I like Nebraska or Kansas squirrels.  One tastes of corn and the other is the most "pure"  Yup ate a lot of squirrel in my younger days, rabbit too.

On Tue, Oct 8, 2013 at 9:03 AM, Ted Eisenstein <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
I think you are probably thinking of "fugu" (puffer fish) and
cassava in addition to taro.

Ditto acorns, I am told: you have to put acorn flour into several
changes of water to get rid of the tannins, which do a nasty on
kidneys (aside from also tasting bad).