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Acorns The White Oak Acorn (Quercus sp.)
The slow-growing white oak tree has provided countless
pieces of fine furniture as well as fuel for warming hearths for
many years. But modern society has completely forgotten the fruits
of these often more than 200-year-old trees. The acorn, the fruit of
the white oak tree, was a staple of the American Indian for centuries.
Prepared properly, it provided breads, nutmeats, and even a tasty
There are two types of acorn-producing oak trees
- the red oak and the white oak. Both are edible, but the white oak
is so far superior that once you’ve tasted it, you probably won’t
want the red oak again. The white oak acorn has thick scales on the
crown, a smooth shell and white meat. Red oak acorns have a yellow meat
and a downy lining.
Additionally, the White Oak tree bears leaves
with rounded or no lobes, usually between 5 and 9 in number. All
acorns contain tannin - a substance once used to tan hides. You must
leach this prior to eating. One of the reasons for the white oak’s
popularity is that it contains far less tannin than the red oak. Leaching
the white oak takes about an hour, the red oak may require all day.
To leach the acorn, first remove the meat from
the shell. You may boil the acorn for 10 to 15 minutes to soften
the shell, if needed. Cut the cap off, and slice the acorn in half.
Remove the meat. Indians would place the meats into a wicker basket and
let it soak in a running stream for a day or two. With modern bacteria
occupying most of America’s waterways, this can no longer be considered
safe. Euell Gibbons described the following method: Put many holes in a
coffee can. Fill the can with nut meat and place it under the tap
in your sink. Allow the water to run just fast enough to keep the
nutmeats covered. Allow this to run overnight.
Another method comes is to put the white oak
meats into a pot with enough water to cover. Bring the water to a
boil, then drain. Repeat 3 times or till the bitterness is gone (the
water should be clear). Once you have leached the nuts, dry them on a cookie
sheet in a low oven (about 200°F) for 2 or 3 hours - till the nuts
become brittle. Remove from the oven and cool. You can now grind
the meats into a protein and fat rich flour, eat them as a tasty
nut (salt as desired), or make a tasty acorn dessert.
Used with permission of Mark A. Harris.
How to Use Acorns for
Bread and Food
There are many species of oak trees. Oak trees are
found throughout. They prefer open woods and bottom land. Normally, they
are divided into two major groups:
Red Oak -
The red oaks have deeply scalloped leaves with very pointed tips. The acorns
from the red oak are very bitter. The acorns require two growing
seasons to mature, have a hairy lining on the inside of the shell,
and the nutmeats are yellow in color. Red oaks are also members of the
black oak family.
(Photo: Oak Trees - Quercus spp. Provide Acorns
Rich in Protein and Oils)
White Oak -
The white oak also has leaves with deep scallops, but the tips are rounded.
The acorns of the white oak are less bitter than those of the red
oak, and they require only one growing season. The inner portion of the
white oak acorn shell is smooth, and the nutmeat is white in color. The
chestnut oak is considered part of the white oak classification.
The nuts are gathered during the fall from September
to October. When processed properly, acorns have a pleasant nutty
flavor. Acorns are an excellent source of energy, protein, carbohydrate,
and calcium. When collecting acorns, one should not be surprised that many
of them must be discarded due to insects or mold, so more should
be collected than are needed. If you spread a sheet of plastic under
the tree and use only those acorns that fall within a one-day period,
this seems to reduce bug infestation, an especially important problem for
acorns that are to be stored in their shell. The ripe tan-to-brown
acorns, rather than the unripe green ones, should be gathered.
The bitterness in acorns is caused by tannic acid which
is water soluble. To remove this unpleasant taste, shell the brown, ripe
acorns and remove any corky skin layers, dice the meat; and boil
the chunks in water from 15 to 30 minutes until the water turns brown.
Then pour off the water and repeat the process until the water clears,
indicating that the tannic acid has been removed. Periodically taste
a bit of the acorns until you no longer detect any bitterness. (Native
Americans would let the crushed acorn meat soak in a fast-moving, clean
stream for several weeks to remove the bitterness.) During the last
boiling, salt water can be added; then the acorns can be deep fried
or mixed in a soup. Also, finely chopped acorn meats can be added
to bread and muffins, or the soft acorn nut can be added as a protein booster
to cooked greens. After the leaching process, acorn meat can be frozen.
To make flour, the boiled acorn meat can be split in
two and dried by slowly baking in a 200 degree oven with the door
cracked to allow moisture to escape. Or, they can be dried in the
sun. They are then crushed or ground and used as a thickener or as flour.
Another method is to roast the fresh acorns to work well in a grinder
or blender. After grinding, the course flour is
placed into a cloth bag and boiled to leach
out the tannic acid.
Acorn flour can be used alone to make an acorn
bread, but it is not very pleasing to most tastes. Acorn flour is
more palatable when mixed with wheat flour or corn meal-one part acorn
meal mixed with four parts corn meal for corn bread, or one to four parts
wheat for bread. The acorn meal can also be heated in water to make
a nutritious mush. Or add enough water to make a thick batter. Add a dash
of salt and sweetener to improve the taste. Allow the batter to stand for
an hour (or until thick) then pat into pancakes and cook or twist and bake
on an open fire.
The leached acorns, after they are roasted until
brittle, can be ground and used as a marginal coffee substitute.
In their shell, the dried acorns will store for
a time. Some Native Americans stored acorns for several years in
bags buried in boggy areas.
CAUTION: In the identification and use of wild
edibles as a food and herbal healing source, care and attention to
details should be exercised, as some plants are toxic. Always use several
field guides to insure proper identification. Better yet, you should be
trained by and expert.
Used with permission of Byron Kirkwood, B &
The above information was condensed from the book God's
Free Harvest - Successful Harvesting Nature's Free Foods by Ken Larson.
P.O. Box 789
Suwanee, Georgia 30024
attn: Ken Larson
From: Barbara Sykes
SUGARED (HONEYED) ACORNS
Use either sugar or honey for a sweet acorn
treat. Dip the acorn meats (which have been leached and dried as
described above) into boiling syrup or a 2:1 sugar to water solution. Thoroughly
dry them on a greased pan. These will keep pretty well in a tin or
glass jar and make nice holiday
treats or gifts.
This holiday black bread must become a tradition
in any house where it has once been tried! Mix a cup of the ground
acorn meal with 3 teaspoons. of baking powder, a tsp of salt, 3 tablespoons
of sugar or honey, and a cup of white flour. Separately, to a beaten
egg add a cup of milk and 3 tablespoons of oil. Stir this gently
into the dry mix, then pour into a well-greased pan. Bake your dough
at 400°F for 30 minutes. Top with butter when it comes out of the oven.
Serve anytime, but there exists no flavor quite like hot, homemade
NOTE: Pour the dough about 2/3 deep in muffin
tins for some tasty muffins. Bake them for 20 minutes and serve them
with elderberry or dewberry jelly (if you still have any!).
Mix half a cup of white flour with a cup of
acorn meal, 2½ teaspoons of baking powder, and ¾ teaspoon
of salt. Separately mix a beaten egg with 1¼ cups of milk and 3
tablespoon of oil. Pour just enough liquid into the flour mix to
make a good batter. Spoon the batter into a greased frying pan. Fry
till golden, flipping once. Top your pancakes with your favorite syrup
and serve hot!
NOTE: This article originally appeared in the
November Issue of The Forager: The Newsletter of Edible Wild Plants.
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