I’ve been collecting acorns for the last two autumns, mainly to feed my squirrels. When they are full of acorns and fat and sassy, they don’t try to empty my bird feeders.
Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about these nuts. Did you know that some oaks bear acorns so low in bitter tannins that they can be eaten raw? One mature Valley Oak can drop 2,000 pounds of acorns in a really good year. We have no oak trees on our property so I have to depend on friends who do, and who consider the acorns a big headache in the fall.
Other than eating the sweet ones raw (or feeding squirrels), there are other things you can do with the mighty acorn. Several cultures roast and salt acorns and serve them like roasted chestnuts.
Did you know that their innards are a carbohydrate (starch) and you can make flour with them? Turns out the acorn-eatingest people in the world right now are the Koreans. If you go to a good Asian market, there is a good chance you will find acorn flour and acorn noodles, which look just like soba noodles. From what I can tell the noodles are eaten in the same way soba noodles are; and yes, they also appear to a lesser extent in Japanese cuisine. Berbers will sometimes make couscous from acorn flour, and Italians make acorn flour pasta, too
Acorns, which are, for the most part, bitter and need to be water-leached at least once or twice to be palatable. They lack gluten, and acorn cooks up dark, because of the sugars in them.
The acorn may have been one of the earliest foods. From a blog comment (a person named Claire) I learned the following: “I am reading about the Druids and they think the word is cognate with the Greek “drus”, meaning “an oak”, and “wid” meaning “to know” or “to see”. My book says “The origin of the Druid caste has had its root in the ‘food gathering age’ when extensive oak forests covered Europe. We are speaking of a period prior to 4000 BC when primitive hunter gatherers saw the oak as a symbol of plenty, collecting acorns as a means of food and finding them easy to store for more difficult days….According to Pliny, the acorn was ground and baked into bread. Publius Ovidius Naso, the poet Ovid, speaks of the acorn as the first food ever given to humans when they were dropped from the great tree of the sky-god Jove or Jupiter. Strabo speaks of acorn bread as a staple diet of the Celts of Iberia, while the Leabhar na Nuachonghbala, composed about AD 1150, records that in one particular bad year every ear of corn bore but one grain and every oak only one acorn, which indicates that the acorn was still regarded as an article of food classed with grain by the Irish.”
I’d love to try an acorn recipe – maybe a tortilla with acorn flour? – but it would deprive my squirrels of food this winter.