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JennyC
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Oak trees

Much to my excitement, I have discovered that acorns are edible (my mother always said they weren't). I get this from Peterson's Field Guide to Edible Plants and from an article on nut gathering at the Mother Earth News website: https://www.motherearthnews.com/Nature-Community/1988-09-01/A-Fall-Field-Guide-to-Nuts.aspx.

Some of you know I'm hoping to achieve self-sustainability here in a few years; this gives me a big leg up on the protein issue. I'd been thinking toward depending on our black walnut trees-- I counted yesterday, and there are 13 surrounding the garden! -- and the single pecan out back. The walnuts present a problem, though, in that it's a major pain to get to the nut meats, as hulls and shells both are made of titanium :wink: They also aren't good for the garden -- some sort of toxin in leaves and roots, and it releases into the soil -- but I don't know that I can bring myself to cut any. Going to see how the garden does, first.

But the biggest tree on the property here (and perhaps in this valley) is an ancient, giant white oak beside the house -- trunk at least 15 feet in circumference, easily a hundred feet tall, canopy covers a larger area than the roof of the house. That's a lot of acorns, and there's another full-size white oak in the front yard (probably a descendent of our giant). Mother Earth News says white oak acorns are lower in tannins, and thus much yummier, less bitter, than many others, so I'm happy.

We also have a good-sized black oak on the other side of the house. Those acorns will be bitter (high tannin content) but still edible. Also, if you boil them in a few changes of water, you can remove most of the tannins, and the first change of water, with high tannin concentartions, is a good remedy for insect bites, sunburn, etc.

Acorn flour, here I come.

[Edited to add link to Mother Earth News article]
Jenny C

TheLorax
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The page you linked to wasn't available. Could be the site is down temporarily.

Check into planting Corylus americana or C cornuta! The first is our American Hazelnut and the second is our Beaked Hazelnut. We're talking classic Filbert nuts here! Added bonus is that these shrubs mature and fruit considerably earlier than an oak, walnut, hickory, or pecan. I've got some that are fruiting after having been in the ground for only 5 years and these plants don't contain juglone like the Black Walnut or the Butternut, their shells aren't "titanium", and their meats aren't bitter like most oaks.

cynthia_h
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Just a "drive-by" comment:

1) Acorns were soaked by (at least) many of the California Native Americans/First Nations peoples prior to preparation as food.

2) The link works if you remove the period after "aspx." Just copy the link into your url bar :wink: and then delete that last period. You get an 8-page or so article (which I did NOT read...) on acorns!

Thx, JennyC!

Cynthia H.
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

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JennyC
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In my defense, only the first page or so is about acorns! There's all kinds of nuts in there.

Here's the link, hopefully unbroken and with period removed.

https://www.motherearthnews.com/Nature-Community/1988-09-01/A-Fall-Field-Guide-to-Nuts.aspx

Cynthia: I think the Native Americans around here soaked acorns, but I can tell you that as a child, I didn't notice this improved the taste very much! :wink: (Wonder why my mom told me they were poisonous...) I think I will try boiling.

I'll look into the hazelnuts. For a minute, I thought you were talking about the American Chestnut, Castanea dentata, still lamented around here.
Jenny C

TheLorax
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JennyC, there's no need to go chestnutless! We simply can't have you lamenting over their loss!

https://www.oikostreecrops.com/store/product.asp?cookiecheck=yes&P_ID=122&PT_ID=73&strPageHistory=cat

That is the Chestnut I buy.

Nice article on nuts. They forgot Hazelnuts though! That's a pretty big omission. How dare they leave out one of my favorites!

Turk
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JennyC wrote:
Cynthia: I think the Native Americans around here soaked acorns, but I can tell you that as a child, I didn't notice this improved the taste very much! :wink: (Wonder why my mom told me they were poisonous...) I think I will try boiling.

here.
Acorns are poisonous. When the Chumash of California prepared Acorn meal they would remove the shell, mash the acorns and then leach them with hot water in a woven basket. This removes the part of the acorn that makes us sick if we eat them raw. They won't KILL you but they will make you sick to your stomach.
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JONA878
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Not really a garden thing but perhaps of interest?


Over here in the UK acorns were used in the last war for making a sort of coffee.
In the south of England the New Forrest....the name is a bit odd as it dates from William.1. in 1079... was set up as a hunting forrest for the king and was not open to commoners until 1698.
Even then it was forbidden to cut the large oaks as they were being used in huge quantities by the navy for the large ship building programme of that period.
Commoners were forbiden to eat deer meat other than the offal or umble.
( Hence the nursery rhyme Little Jack Horner......eating humble pie)
These commoners had the right of Pannage.
This was to allow their pigs into the forrest to eat up all the acorns that had fallen, pigs being immune from acorn poisoning.This because it would then be safe for cattle to roam without suffering stomach problems from them.

Useless info....but quaint.
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TheOnionShed
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acorns

I have heard of some earlier settlers around here putting acorns in sacks with holes (such as burlap?) and letting it sit in a running stream for about a week. The acorns were then dried, and mashed into flower. Anybody else heard of that? Thanks!

orgoveg
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This an old thread, but an interesting topic to me. Acorns were once a staple food of Native Americans. I have tried to perfect my preparation of acorns for several years. They contain tannic acid, which is toxic to humans and these acids must be leached out before eating. It is true that white oaks tend to produce acorns with lower tannic acid levels, but they still need to be leached (it just doesn't take as long as other types of oaks).

With alot of research and experimentation, I have come close to good preparation methods but there is room for improvement. It's trickier than you might think. Our predecessors had it down to a science, but their exact methods seem to have been lost.

If anyone is interested, PM me and I will send you what I have written from my experience with acorns.

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applestar
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I AM curious! Is the process very involved? How much acorns do you have to gather to get a decent yield, and what do you use it for? Acorn flour?

orgoveg
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I would say the process is pretty involved. You have to have some time on your hands to shell, leach, dry or bake, grind, etc. The shell of an acorn is thin, so each one yields alot of "meat". You can pretty much visualize the number you would need to make whatever you want. They are primarily used to make flour, but they can be prepared other ways to use like any other nut.

The Helpful Gardener
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White oaks are the ones the critters use first, lower in tannins. Then they do the blak oaks then the reds. I suspect we could do no better then to imitate the rest of the species...

Do you know oaks are propagated almost entirely by... you thought I was going to say squirrel, but here in the US it's jays, almost entirely... different ones in different places, but jays all.

Oaks rely on predation for germination. A key predator is necessary for survival. I hope the sudden oak death can be contained and save our most crucial native tree...

(left)...

HG
Scott Reil

orgoveg
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I did not know of the role that jays play in oak reproduction. Very interesting. I had not heard of sudden oak death, either. It looks as if only the northwest coast is affected (along with Europe) for now. The Emerald Ash Borer is a problem in my region and we're having a difficult time containing that. I see that the sudden oak death problem also affects other plant species, so that probably adds significant potential to spread further.

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Yeah, OV; that particular disease also affect blueberries and other natives, so the effect here in the Northeast would be devastating. It wouldn't be good anywhere...

Your issue is no less a disaster; we are on the lookout for the emerald ash borer here and everybody should be. The long horned beetle up in Worcester is our biggest concern around these parts; Worcester, MA is starting to look like a battleground as whole neighborhoods are clear cut to try and stop this one, which also has vast implications for northern forests.

Our forests nationwide are under attack from invasive organisms, pollutants that we will be hard pressed to mitigate. Dump chemicals out of a pipe and you have a localized mess; lose control of invasives and the problem is regional, even national. We need to address this issue to preserve the ecosystem at large. I do not ever want to have to explain [url=https://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_701710572/trophic_cascade.html]trophic cascade[/url] here to people experiencing it...
HG
Scott Reil

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Acorns

Making the acorn flour is very hard. You want to make sure the acorn is safe before eating it or it can ruin your liver/kidneys due to the toxins and tannins in acorns. Red Oak Acorns have lots of tannins in the acorn. White Oak Acorns have less tannins. Acorn Flour is not sold in the USA mainly due to the process of making the flour not certified by the USDA or any federal agency. Acorn flour can be purchased in China but it's not 100% acorn flour, it's actually maybe 60% acorn flour and other additives. Make sure you know what your doing before you start crushing acorns.

Jen

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Thanks for that, Jen...

If memory serves, the tribes around here soaked them in streams, ground them and sun dried the paste, all of which was designed to leach those tannins. Acorns were a mainstay food crop here in the Northeast, and I like the idea of getting them back into our diet (I like the idea of getting any native local food back in our diet!). I will do some homework and post my findings here...

HG
Scott Reil

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i've messed with acorns as food before, mostly with white oak...though chestnut oak is allegedly even sweeter/lower in tannins, i never catch 'em before the squirrels do (which is a good sign, methinks)...i soaked them shelled in several changes of water and then boiled them in another few changes of water...the nuts get darker and darker as you go, and after i ground, dried, and ground them again, the resultant flour (and small container of coarser meal that resisted grinding) was dark brown and fairly aromatic/rich smelling. i've used it in place of cornmeal in cornbread recipes, both alone and mixed...the breads seem to tend toward dryness & density, but i never felt i made enough flour to test recipes thoroughly for fine-tuning. kinda want to use acorn flour and chunked up chestnuts, with some binder (maybe eggs?) to make nut cakes, fried fritter-style...

The Helpful Gardener
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I really liked this [url=https://www.ramshacklesolid.com/2008/09/making-acorn-flour.html]how-to[/url]; easy and quick...

And here's a [url=https://www.jackmtn.com/acornbread.html]how-to with a recipe...[/url]

HG
Scott Reil

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