Are acorns edible? Can you eat acorns?
The answer to both is yes! Most acorns are edible – but some are more useful than others…. And acorns should never be eaten raw. The tannin content is too high and they will be bitter.
We are fortunate to have Northern Red Oak, Burr Oak, and Northern pin oak in our forests. Of these, Northern red oak is our favorite. The pin oak produces acorns that are too small to peel and our burr acorns are snatched up by wild turkeys and white tail deer faster than we can gather them. Besides, northern red oak acorns have a very nutty flavor and makes fantastic pancake.
Read on to see how we process the red oak acorns:
Step 1: Gather some acorns. Ripe acorns fall from the tree. The nut weasel is the absolute best way to pick up acorns off the ground (we use the medium for red oak acorns.)
Step 2: Put your acorns in a bucket and fill the bucket with water. Any that float are either immature, loaded with worms, or are bare caps – toss them out!See our floaters…..
After taking out the floaters, we were left with acorns and what appeared to be “oily” water. It had that glisteny look to it – like oil in water. It could also be slug goo. Who knows.Step 3: Dump the water out and put the acorns on newspaper lined trays to dry for a few days/weeks. You can also put them in single layer baskets. Just make sure to put them somewhere wildlife can not eat them.
They take about 2 weeks to dry before you can crack them out of their shell. The skin will be “tight” if they are not fully dry. Any green-ish acorns turn brown after about 1 week of drying.
Step 4: Open up your acorns. You can use nut crackers, hammers, rocks, and your fingers.Step 5: Brace yourself. You will find some scary things.
Some acorns will be moldy inside – if you can dry in full sun (or even in a dehydrator) this should be limited. Almost nothing will prepare you for the worms though….
You can limit some of the “worm experience” by tossing floaters, picking them up off the ground soon after they drop, and by looking for holes. All acorns with a little hole in them will have a worm visitor.
Also – “caps on” usually mean worms are inside. It means the tree ejected them instead of the acorn falling when it was ready. Unfortunately, some that look perfect will have worms too. It’s a mystery.Here’s what the acorns looked like when things went right (read: no mold and no worms.)Step 6: Put your peeled nuts into a bowl of water to prevent browning.Step 7: Grind the acorns into flour. Use whatever method you prefer, but the finer the grain, the better/quicker the tannins leach out. Grind in water or add water after grinding, then refrigerate. We use our vitamix blender for the job.
Here is the slurry:
Here it is after a few hours:
Step 8: Pour the top (red in this case) layer off of the slurry. Add more water and repeat every day. You may find it difficult to pour the tannin water off without losing the top fat layer. Be careful of losing the fat layer – it adds flavor and nutrients. We have used gravy separators, carafes, and even syringes. They all work about the same. Comment below if you have a better method.
The leach water will get less colorful over time, but some the flour will retain a pinkish hue. At 4 days, the flour should be nice and bland. Most advice is to wait a few days after you think it’s ready to be sure the tannins are actually out. Acorns are tricky. Leaching acorns can take days or weeks, be patient.
You may taste a white oak acorn raw and think it’s totally fine only to have your throat burning a few minutes later. It’s the same with the leached flour. Raw red acorns will burn your mouth immediately (bitter acid burn….) Keep checking every day and around 7-10 days it should be ready. We usually give it a full 10 days.There are many layers to acorn flour – a fat layer, some skin/fiber, and the germ/flour.
The flour should taste bland and mealy – like flour. I suspect that the skin/fiber is in the pink layer. The white is the “meat” of the acorn. We mix it up and use both but if you had enough acorns you could experiment with them. I did a few experiments trying to separate the two layers.Step 9: Drain out all the water and let your flour dry. Either sieve it and let it sit to dry or put it into a dehydrator.
Step 10: Freeze your flour for future use or start cooking right away.Here is a look at the red oak pancakes we made:
All we did was substitute half of the flour in our usual pancake recipe for acorn flour. They do turn out a little thinner, so you may want to decrease the amount of milk in your batter.
How do they taste? They taste great! They were a zillion times better than buckwheat pancakes and to be honest, I like them way better than wheat pancakes.
Say what you will about the frigid north – it’s brutal up here – but we can make acorn pancakes and top them with maple syrup from our own trees. We can grow berries like nowhere else, and really amazing plums…..and all sorts of good stuff. Check out our shop to see the cool plants that grow easily from seed in our northern climate.
Why would we eat acorns?
Acorns were a traditional food of Native Americans. They harvested and leached acorns every fall, right after the wild rice harvest. The tribes in California used the larger white acorns as one of their staple crops. They provide a much needed source of carbohydrates and fats. They are readily available and often drop in huge quantities. They can store (somewhat.) Beyond this, it is nice to know which foods are naturally available in you area. One of the saddest books we read about the Civil War involved Northern soldiers that starved to death in prisoner camps while food was all around them. They just didn’t recognize the wild foods growing it the Southern climate. It’s important to know your area and be prepared at all times.
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