Do you have oak trees around your house or in a nearby park?
This is the time of year when you’ll probably notice acorns, the mighty oak tree’s tiny seed, falling to the ground with a satisfying ‘plunk!’.
Once on the ground, most acorns are scooped up by squirrels padding their pantry for winter, but did you know they can also be food for humans?
Whether post-election America has you evaluating your survival skills or you’d just like to add more wild-foraged foods to your diet, this post will help you understand more about the nutritional value of acorns and how to eat them!
Health Benefits Of Acorns
It’s with good reason that naturalist John Muir called the acorn one of the most “strength giving” foods he had ever eaten. The nutritional value of the lowly acorn makes it sound like a superfood. “Acorns are rich in Vitamins B12, B6, folate riboflavin, thiamin and niacin. They also contain iron, calcium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus, copper manganese and zinc, and are good sources of protein and fiber,” reports Off The Grid News.
Historically, acorns are valued by Native Americans as well as Koreans, the latter is known for dotorimuk, a sort of acorn jelly, and dotori guksu, an acorn flour noodle.
Dealing With Acorn Tannins
All varieties of the acorn are edible, which makes them one of the easiest foods to forage. So why isn’t everyone scooping them up and declaring them the trendy new nut?
The answer lies in the acorn’s high levels of tannic acid, an astringent, bitter plant polyphenolic compound that tastes bad and can be toxic when consumed in large quantities.
But take heart, foragers, for tannic acid is water soluble, meaning it can be removed through one of the following simple, yet time consuming processes.
How To Process And Eat Acorns
Step 1: Choose only ripe acorns.
Acorns that look green, blackened or mildewed are best left for the squirrels. The ones you want are ripe, brown in color, with shell, nut and cap completely in tact. (Tiny holes in the acorn means they’ve already been claimed by weevils.)
Step 2: Shell the acorns.
Most experienced foragers agree this is the most time-consuming part of the process, and it can be performed both before or after you remove the tannins with water. Everything from smashing with a hammer to slicing lengthwise with a very sharp knife to reveal the meats within has been suggested. Whichever method you choose, it’s important that you do it carefully to protect your eyes and fingers!
Step 3: Remove the tannins.
As promised, there are several different ways to reduce the acorn’s tannic acid content, making them more palatable and easy to process.
Boil – After removing the acorn caps, submerge the nuts (still in their shells) in a large pot of clean water. Bring it to a boil for 1o minutes, then drain the water, replace and boil again for 10 minutes. You’ll want to boil at least 30 total minutes or until the water runs clear before attempting to shell (which should be much easier as a result!).
Flush – Place the acorns in a cheese cloth bag under cold running water for several hours. Once the water runs clear, the acorns should be palatable.
Soak – Allowing the acorns to soak in a mixture of baking soda and cold water (1 teaspoon per quart of water) for at least 12 hours is also an effective way to neutralize the tannins.
Once blanched, it’s time to decide what you want to do with your acorns! Roast the meats in the oven or spread them in a single layer and allow to dry in the sun. Damp acorns will mold almost immediately. Once dry, they can be ground into flour, a coffee alternative, or even brined like olives!