The Incredible Edible Acorn
When I was a kid I was always in the woods, I practically grew up in them. I was homeschooled and still remember getting up at 5am every morning so I could finish all my work and be in the woods by noon. I admit when my Pa first told me people could eat acorns, I went right out and cracked open one and poped it in my mouth. YUCK! Talk about bitter! I figured only squirrels could eat something that awful. My Pa assured me that acorns are indeed edible, but they need a bit of work before they are ready for the dinner table.
Eating acorns is nothing new. The Indians here in North America ate them, in fact, they still eat them. They ate them whole, turned them into flour, and even made bread out of them. They’re nutritious and plentiful and if you’re afraid of gathering wild edibles for fear of grabbing the wrong plant, I’m sure you won’t have any problem recognizing acorns. All types of acorns throughout the country are edible.
Over the course of history it has been estimated that many more millions of tons of acorns have been consumed by humans than wheat, rice, and other grains. Preparing and eating them is easier than you might think too. You can make alot of different foods with the simple acorn. Believe it or not, there are recipes for acorn cheesecake and acorn enchiladas.
If you’re looking for acorn recipes then check out Suellen Ocean book Acorns and Eat ‘em. It’s 50 pages of great information. It includes a field guide to oaks, along with modern instructions on how to prepare and cook your acorns and various recipes. The California Oak Foundation is hosting a FREE PDF version of her book. Download it, print it, study it. The knowledge inside may save your life one day.
Preparing The Nuts
There are as many ways to prepare acorns as there are nuts on the ground. No matter how you go about it, the goal is to remove the tannic acid that makes acorns bitter. Some people like to remove the shells, some don’t. Some like to boil them, some like to soak them in running water. I shell and boil mine. A fist sized rock works great as a nutcracker, so does a hammer. It can be a bit of work, but there is a great device by Davebuilt Co that will crack and seperate your acorns with the turn of a handle. You can also put them in a burlap sack, pillow case, or even a ziplock bag and gently hit them with a hammer. After I shell them I like to grind the acorns into smaller pieces before boiling. This allows the tannic acid to be leached out more quickly.
Take the ground acorns and put them into a pot of already boiling water. As the acorns boil the water will become discolored. When the water is dark brown (every ten minutes or so), strain out the acorn meats and switch them to another pot of already boiling water. When switching the acorns from one pot of water to another, make sure the water is boiling before adding the acorns. Switching the acorns from boiling water to cold water can lock in the bitterness.
Continue this process until the acorn paste no longer tastes bitter. Generally speaking it usually takes 3 or 4 water changes. The amount of boiling you do will vary depending on your acorns and your patience. When most of the bitterness is gone lay out the acorn paste and allow it to dry.
Another way to leach out tannins from acorns is to put them in a mesh or burlap sack and leave them in a running stream for a week or so. The length of time and results will vary depending on the acorns, the water temperature and flow rate, and other factors.
Cooking And Storage
The wet meal can be used right away in a bread recipe, or dried and stored as flour is. It will keep as long as flour does if kept dry. You can store it in sealed mylar bags placed inside 5-gallon buckets. Don’t forget the oxygen absorbers. Here’s a great guide I wrote on Long Term Food Storage in case you’re curious.
Acorn is a heavy flour and your bread may fall apart if you don’t add a mixture of flours. You may want to mix a lighter flour such as wheat flour with the acorn meal. White flour, corn flour, cattail flour, and soy flour all will do.
One should prepare in leisure for what we may one day have to do in haste. Don’t wait till it’s too late to learn these skills. The acorns are coming off soon, if you have an oak tree in your yard grab a 5 gallon bucket and collect the fallen ones once they have turned brown. Better yet put a tarp or sheet under the tree and the acorns will nearly harvest themselves. It doesn’t get much easier than that!