Acorns are fairly common around the world. They are the nut of the Oak tree and there are over 600 different varieties. At least a few varieties can be found in most areas of the world except the most extreme temperature zones.
Not all acorns look alike. The size, shape and color of both the nut itself and the cap on it can vary, but more often than not, you will be looking at some shade of green or brown. In most cases, if it is green, it is not ripe as they turn brown when ripening.
This is not true 100% of the time, however. There are varieties that are closer to black when ripe and I have seen some with a definite purple tint to them.
There are differences in how much tannins (more on this below) they have in them. If you are looking to find oaks to plant on your property now, to provide food later, I strongly suggest you research individual types. The more tannins there are in the acorns, the harder it is to remove the tannins.
Also, different varieties produce at different times. Some varieties produce every 6 months, some only every 2 years. Since it will take several years for your tree to reach the size of producing acorns, it is worth buying the one that will be the easiest to process and provide the most nuts for your money. Plus you want to make sure it will grow well in your area.
Why you must remove excess tannins in Acorns
All acorns for oak trees have tannins. Tannins are not poisonous and is found in much of the food we eat. But they can make a wild food taste bitter and eating too much of them can cause your body to not process proteins properly and far too much of them can cause damage to the kidneys.
Thankfully however, you can leech the tannins out of acorns making them perfectly edible and a welcome edition to your diet. I say this because it is hard to find starches in wild food and acorns are a great source for it.
To Remove Tannins
There is a lot of debate on how to remove the tannins in acorns. Most of the debate is over:
- whether to use cold water or hot water
- how long and how often to soak them
- whether to soak then with or without the cap
- whether to soak them with or without their shell
- whether to soak them cut or chopped up or not.
I will explain how I leech them. You can decide if you want to try it another way or use my way.
How I remove tannins
- Gather your acorns and remove the caps
- Shell the acorns, then allow them to dry out for a few days.
- Cut the nut at least in half, quarters if it is big enough. You want to get the pieces small enough the soak water can penetrate to remove the tannins.
- Put all your chopped nuts into a large container. Pour enough boiling water over them to completely cover then.
- Let it sit for about 24 hours, rinse your nuts and repeat the process.
- Taste a small amount of the water before pouring it off. Then taste again after each day’s leeching. When almost all the bitterness is out of them, you are ready to proceed.
- Your next goal is to dry the nuts completely. I do not process huge batches are a time, so I tend to spread them thin on a towel, set the up where the cats cannot reach them and let them air dry. How long it takes depends on the current humidity levels. In the south it can be VERY humid and take more than a week to dry. When the humidity is low, it often will not take more than a couple of days. Just make sure you stir them several times a day so all sides of the pieces get air time.
After they are dried
You have some choices here. Some people prefer to grind them into flour and store it like any other flour. I prefer to simply store them like any other dried nut. I have never tried grinding them to use as flour because I rarely use any type of flour and just have not had the need to do so. I use them more as a quick snack like any other nut or will add them to a recipe where I want to add a little crunch.
Tips to improve your experience
Knowledge is king! With 600 varieties of oak, the majority of which I have never laid eyes on, it is impossible for me to tell you everything there is to know about every oak tree you might encounter. Check your local area and look for the little green acorns starting to show up about May. Take a leaf, bring it home and compare at one of the following websites.
• I found a field guide to oak trees in the Eastern USA. I could not find one for the Western half, but Googles new algorithm thinks you never need to see any sites that are about some place beyond your physical area, so you might can find one if you live in the west.Eastern United State Field Guide to oak trees
Next Step After Identifying types in your area
Once you know what type of oak trees you have, search for Native America sites that talk about your specific type of tree. Chances are good they will know tried and true methods of getting tannins out of the acorns and what the best ways of processing them are.
If you don’t find any Native American site, you can probably find some survival or prepper sites that list instructions for your specific tree. Keep digging until you find what works best for your specific variety of tree.
The following is a list of websites I have used in the past to find recipes to use acorns with. Sadly, I won’t be using them for a while. Last year a downburst split my huge old oak tree in half. Half stayed upright, the other half laid down on top of my house. Luckily, it was close enough to the roof it did not punch through, but since it was the only oak tree in my yard, there went my food source until the two I planted in the front yard are old enough to produce.
My other food foraging posts you might be interested in
Foraging Wild Edible Purslane
Edible Perennial Ground Nut
Fermenting Wild Greens
Food foraging plantain weed for food and medicine
Arugula a wonder food that self sows
garlic a must have for any survival garden
how to make diy garlic oil
One big beautiful camellia bloom
food foraging chicory
food foraging flowers you can eat
Pine Needle Tea
Wild and Mock Strawberries
Fried Dandelion Flowers Recipe
Food Foraging 101 – part 1
Food Foraging 101 - part 2
Food Foraging 101- part 3
Till next time:
Love and Peace