[NAFEX] Edible Acorns

Donna &/or Kieran holycow at cookeville.com
Fri Sep 14 10:40:09 EDT 2007

RE comments from Michael:

"even after you go through all of the work
you have to do to make an acorn edible, the chestnut
still tastes much better."

Well now, I'm not so sure about that.  I don't really find that large acorns 
are more work to shell than chestnuts, and my blender never once complained 
about the effort of grinding acorns.  Leaching by simply pouring off the 
water and adding more, followed by a few seconds more zapping, was also 
easy.  As for taste... I find chestnuts are a real treat roasted and eaten 
on their own, but when added to anything else I think they are unbelievably 
bland.  After the meal I say, "There were chestnuts in that, could you taste 
them?"  And no, my husband couldn't taste them either.  Sure you can add 
them to bread, but it will just taste like bread.  Add them to soup, and 
ho-hum.  Add leached acorns to bread and it's an amazing treat.  You'll be 
able to smell and taste nuts, but will be totally unable to put your finger 
on exactly what kind of nut it was.

Re my son's comments, I apologize, he didn't realize that I was referring to 
the difficulty of removing OIL SOLUBLE tannins from the black oak group.  I 
will see if I can put him onto it.  The link he sent was interesting, but 
involved a lot of pouring water involving basketry which is both unnecessary 
and unavailable to most of us.   I have ground acorns in a Corona mill by 
hand and that also worked fine, though the larger particles required a bit 
more soaking.
    I think a good reason for some of the older methods had to do with the 
nature of white oak family acorns.  One good year I had the kids pick up 
some 20 lbs of them, and within a couple of weeks they'd sprouted in the 
bag.  The white oak family behaves like this, and I have read that the 
acorns become very bitter once they sprout.  This is a bit of a delimma, and 
as mentioned in the article my son offered, you absolutely cannnot leach 
acorns after they are cooked or even heated very much.  (I found this out 
after attempting to dry some out too much to sprout, the sun came out so 
bright that day that the acorns nearly cooked in the bed of the truck, and 
after that they were useless. )  However, if a bag of them were hung in a 
running stream, their oxygen intake and thus metabolism would be severely 
reduced, while the running water would not promote fermentation the way 
hanging them in a bucket would do.  I expect they could be kept for weeks or 
even months this way, and would be largely leached of tannins eventually, so 
they might even be cooked whole or in halves in a stew.
    I have looked more carefully at the articles in the link and looked up 
the California Black oak, Q. kelloggi, and it is indeed a member of the 
black oaks, with bristle tips on the leaves and acorns that don't sprout 
till spring.   I read that they don't begin cropping till 80-100 years old, 
and most of the cropping trees to be found nowadays have sprouted from 
stumps.  One comment was if you are looking at a big tree near a stream, 
look around for mortar holes in the granite bedrock, where Indians had 
ground acorns in years past.  It also said that tribes on the west coast 
still gathered and ate acorns.
    I have read that the black oaks were preferred because the oils they 
contain have more calories and more flavor than the largely starch based 
white oaks.  It strikes me as peculiar that the article my son sent 
describes nothing more than grinding and pouring water through the meal. 
Maybe California black oaks have mostly water soluble tannins after all? 
Maybe we are too worried about the difficulty of leaching our eastern black 
oak acorns?  I've read that white people in the east boiled black oak acorns 
to get the oil out of them for making liniment.  Seems that if they knew how 
to make them edible, they would have.  On the other hand, the whites never 
seemed to have used much Apios and I've read they passed over the flour type 
corns that some Indians grew for flints and dents.        Donna  ed them 
into meal in mortars they had worn into granite bedrock.  This meal was then 
leached with water in order to remove bitter tannic acid then it was cooked 
and eaten as soup, mush, bread, or patties.  Today, acorns are still 
gathered by people of many different tribes in California and southern 

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