Saturday, February 7, 2009

Acorns can be people food...

When the United States really falls into hard times...and we are looking for ways to feed our can give peace to know that there are ALL KINDS of wild foods all around us that are ready to be gathered and enjoyed....if only we take the time to learn to identify them...and how to use them. I bet that in your lawn right now...there are several weeds that are quite tasty and you know which ones they are!? From time to time I will do an article on what is generally called "foraging"...or "wild foods" and post it here to bring to light some of these foods that are in our region. The first wild food that I will highlight...that I am really excited acorns!

Acorns are a wild food that even the smallest of children can identify. To the children that find them they are a novelty...and to most adults they are a nuisance...litter to be discarded. They drop from Oak trees in the Sacramento valley by the barrel full. A friend of mine recently told me how he had filled up his green waste bins multiple times with nothing but acorns! He exclaimed to me "What a waste...I know there is a way to make them into the Indians did! I got a bumper crop and they are just going straight to the green waste".

If you have ever been adventurous and tried even the tiniest bite of raw probably regretted putting it in your mouth. When eaten raw...they are BITTER. What is so bitter is what is called "Tannic acid" or "Tannin". This is the stuff that can be used to tan leather...that LDS people often cite as a main reason why coffee is bad for you. So how can acorns be people food with all of that tannic acid? How are they processed to make them good to eat?

The last few weeks I have been investigating that...and here are some highlights and some thoughts....

I would guess that at some point we all did a report on the American Indians...and how they pounded acorns into flour. While not all tribes made heavy use of acorns for their sustenance....some tribes used acorn as their main source of food. I just checked out a book this last week from the library called "It will live forever". It was a really interesting peek into some of the methods of acorn preparation of the Miwok and Paiute Indians that lived in the Yosemite valley. The book outlines how to process acorns with the most rudimentary of tools...and much of the culture revolving around the "people of the acorn". One thing that the book made clear is that there is no "one way" to do the can be done a variety of ways. Methods vary from tribe to tribe...and even within tribes...or even families.

I am sure that the thought of sitting around for hours pounding acorn with rocks doesn't sound all that appealing to many. You will probably be pleased to know that you don't have to lift and drop an rock for hours to get a product!...There are modern methods that can be employed.

This last week I tried out one of these methods. Without getting into all of the details...I collected the acorns that are still falling from my "Interior Live Oak's" in my backyard...and followed this method to prepare the acorns. The flour was completed yesterday...and today I made my first acorn muffins! The kids in our preschool all loved them...and asked for seconds...and for thirds (to which we said "no".) They turned out to be like a spice cake...they were really good. I had some family eat some of a muffin and I asked them what they thought the special ingredient could which they guessed at various spices and nuts. Imagine their surprise when I told them it was made with "Acorn!" My grandmother exclaimed..."Like the Indians!!"

Here are some interesting points about acorns...and stuff to get you to want to use them!...

1. They are probably the most easy foraging food to identify! You aren't going to make a mistake and poison yourself! Identifying oak tree's can be difficult...because of the hybridization between the species...but you will not mistake the acorn that drops from it.

2. In hard times...if you took the time to learn how to use would probably be the only one within miles that would have any idea how to eat them.

3. All acorns are edible from all varieties of Oak. They have differing flavors....different amounts of oils...differing amounts of tannic acid...etc.

4. They can be dried and stored for a LONG time. The black oaks acorn can be dried and stored for upwards of 13 years!! Tannic acid is a natural preservative...the higher the tannic acid content...the longer it will store.

5. Once leeched of the tannic acid...the acorn can be made into a mush that is so mild an infant can eat it! It can be eaten without adding anything to it...or it can be mixed in with other foods to bulk them up. It is versatile!

6. ACORNS ARE A SURVIVAL FOOD OF THE HIGHEST DEGREE!! Acorns are extremely nutritious, containing up to 18 percent fat, 6 percent protein, and 68 percent carbohydrate as well as vitamins A and C and many amino acids. 100 grams of acorn flour (roughly one cup) contains a whopping 500 calories, 30 grams of fat, and 54 grams of carbohydrate.

7. Oak tree's are EVERYWHERE! Oak tree's are to be found all over the world...and across the US. While other wild foods are only can be assured that an Oak tree can be found most anywhere in the US. In the Sacramento valley they are especially plentiful. The food they drop is ready to be picked up by the barrel full!

8. You don't have to plant and tend the crop! In contrast to growing your own garden...which takes a lot of time and effort to get the fruit...acorns just fall from the trees without any thought of taking care of the tree! Oaks drop their acorns according to a cycle...weak years followed by a strong year...and the timeline is based largely on what variety Oak it is. Then there is also a phenomenon called "masting" where an Oak will drop an unreal amount of acorns (often really large) my friend experienced.

9. You can actually have a really long season of harvestable acorns! Many Oaks are dropping acorns back in October...November...and here it is mid-February and I am still collecting!

10. If things got really rough for our nation...and people came to you for help...if you knew how to process could send them out to gather what they want to eat!

So...what did I learn from my first attempt at using acorn as a food?....

1. If you over bake the will take forever to get all of the tannic acid to leech out. I think next time I will not bake them...I will dehydrate them a bit instead. It will be one of those things that will develop as I go.

2. Ideally you will collect your acorns when they have freshly fallen. The Miwok and Paiute Indians both selected their acorns like we would our oranges at the grocery store. Taking only the acorns that had no holes or bumps...and looked healthy. I used substandard acorns...and it was still time I want it to be even better!

3. I want to get a Davebilt nutcracker. After leaning over a pile of acorns for a good stretch of time...whacking them with a hammer...breaking the shells...winnowing...etc...I found that my back was tired and my fingers were tender from cracking the shells. This is work I would gladly do to survive...but it sure would be nice to mechanize to process to make it easier. The Davebilt is THE way to shell acorns...according to people that use acorn as a means of opposed to a hobby. Watch this video of the Davebilt in action.

4. You can be a total rooky...and still get a product that your kids will eat...and love...and could even thrive upon...and this from the ground in my backyard! Better in our bellies...than in the green waste!

Here is the way I will try it next time...just to try another method

Julia F. Parkers New Way Acorn (from the "It will live forever book")

Crack 4 pounds of acorn with a hammer. When cracking, tap shells lightly enough that the nutmeats will split into halves or thirds, but won't shatter into small pieces.

Remove shells by hand, returning shells and any bad nuts to the earth.


To loosen the skins, lay acorn on a cloth on a table in the sun. Split grooves open by pressing down with the sharp edge of a knife held lengthwise in the groove. Sprinkle the acorns with water and allow to dry. Rub handfuls of nutmeats between hands to remove skins. Scrape any adhering skins off with a knife. Taking bad nuts into account, 4 pounds result in about 4 cups of whole, cleaned acorn.

Blender Crushing
Measure out 4 cupfuls of whole, cleaned nutmeats. Put 1 cupful (5 1/2 oz.) in a blender and break up at low speed. The acorn will jump around in the blender. Once the nutmeats are broken up, switch the blender to high speed and run until no more acorn falls from the edges onto the blades. Mix acorn up with the handle of a wooden spoon, making sure to include the acorn nearest the bottom, which tends to get sticky. Repeat blending and mixing until acorn is reduced to fine flour. (If acorn gets oily as blended, add a few whole nutmeats at a low speed to absorb the oils.) Remove the now fluffy flour and set aside in a bowl. Add second cupful and repeat the process. Add a third cupful and repeat. Add a fourth cupful and repeat. This results in 5 fluffy cupfuls of flour.

If there are chunks of acorn in the flour, it needs to be run throught the blender again. Don't put more than a cup of acorn in the blender at a time - any more might cause the motor to burn out.


Put flour into a 5-pound flour, sugar or salt sack. Fill the sack full of water and allow it to drain so the flour is saturated. Tie the sack to a faucet and turn the faucet on just past a drip, so that a very slow, steady stream of water drips over the outside of the sack (which serves as a waterbreak) all night long.

Place leached acorn (when wet, it reduces again to 4 cups) in a stainless steel pot. Add 3 cups water and mix with acorn. Cook at high heat, stirring frequently. While acorn cooks, gradually add 7 more cups of water. Keep stirring. Let the acorn boil for 15 minutes, until it has the consistency of tomato soup. For cornmeal mush consistency, add less water. Makes 11.5 cups nuppa. If using fresh (newly gathered) acorn, increase the amount of water used, as fresh acorn thickens more than older acorn.


  1. Great post,

    A few months ago while on a walk I picked up an acorn and wondered how this could be made into food. I cracked it open and bit into it to see what it was like. Very biter. Now I know why.

    Thanks for doing the research so I can now try this as a food!


  2. I am the Preparedness Specialists in my Ward on the East coast and am planning our first preparedness expo. What ideas do you have?

  3. I typed out a big response and then it didn't go through...arghh!! Here is a bullet point of it...

    1. If you can convince your bishop that he has a welfare time bomb on his hands...and that you can make his life easier...and that you just need for him to be a cheerleader and an will go far.

    2. Same with other leaders. You represent the foundation of welfare. "The foundation of the Church welfare program is personal and family preparedness. The organizational support is in place to train and prepare the membership in this basic responsibility. What is needed is for each priesthood and Relief Society leader to place the proper priority on this important work." L. Tom Perry, “The Need to Teach Personal and Family Preparedness,” Ensign, May 1981, 87

    3. You may want to consult with the ward council as to what the ward weak spots are. Do they need family home storage?...emergency evacuation stuff? Gardening? Our events are probably all going to be in a booth format in the cultural hall...with classes going on in the rooms around the church.

    4. Try to get people involved...teaching things. Don't do it all yourself. Perhaps it's just my mentallity...but I am trying to do everything really big. I am trying to do all I can to get the community out. Preparedness is truly a community issue. I would put "community event" on every flyer...and try to get more people from out of church to come.

    I have to go to bed! Hope that helps some...

  4. Stephen Nix said:
    Nothing about Acorns.

  5. Out spreadin' some

    Let me know when your acorn article comes out so I can get some good info!

  6. Another thing...

    This article was written when I first got excited about acorns. After that...I read everything I could on the internet. I checked out every book on oak trees from the library. I read everything I could find on traditional methods. I collected buckets of acorns. I cooked a multitude of dishes. I practiced...and practiced...and practiced.

    So basically since this article was written...I have been using acorns...and studying them. I am regularly contacted by people asking how to do it. I did a 4 hour seminar a while back on Oak identification and processing of acorns. I have been hired by my city to do classes on acorn processing next fall.

    I do no apologize for my old articles. They are a history of where I was the time.

    If anyone has a sincere question...I would be happy to answer it...or tell them where they might find the answer!

  7. Acorns: An Easier Way to Remove Tannin Acid

    Jerry L. Snay
    Holland, Vermont
    I’ve tried some of the old recommended procedures for riding acorns of their tannin acid. I was not that satisfied with the results and the probable lost of nutrients with these processes, so I began to think about a way that would be easier and more effective. After pondering on and off for awhile , I remembered how one kind of acid can alter or cancel another kind of acid. So what was an acid that would be safe and not unpalatable? It was obvious, apple cider vinegar.

    I had some dry acorns from that fall, so I course ground them. I then soak the acorns covered in the apple cider vinegar, in a covered glass jar and refrigerated for about a day and a half. Then I rinsed them in water with baking soda and spread them out to dry. When they had dried they were ground finer.

    I found a recipe in the Joy of Cooking cookbook for Northern Style corn bread, however I substituted the wheat flour with some of Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flour. That may not be necessary for you. The recipe called for baking soda but because I had used baking soda in the rinsing, the bread had a little too much, I will have to adjust that next time.
    Non-the less, the bread was delicious, without any taste of tannin acid, or vinegar. Tasting a lot like brown bread. My wife ate two slices one after the other.

    Northern Corn Bread recipe:

    A mixture of cornmeal (Acorn Flour) and flour, an additional egg, and a combination
    of milk and buttermilk yields lighter bread with more cakey texture than Southern Corn Bread.

    Position rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven 425 degrees F. Grease pan or line a muffin pan with paper cups. Whisk together thoroughly in a large bowl:
    1 ¼ cups store-grown cornmeal (ACORNS)
    1 to 4 tablespoons sugar or equivalent amount of molasses or honey
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    ½ teaspoon salt
    Whisk together in another bowl 2 large eggs
    2/3-cup milk
    2/3-cup buttermilk
    Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until moistened.
    Fold in: 2 to 3 tablespoons warm melted butter or vegetable oil.
    Scrape the batter into the pan and tilt (if using a square pan) to spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 10 to 12 minutes in a muffin pan, 20 to 25 minutes in a square pan. (I found it may take a little longer) Serve hot.