Wild Foraging Acorns

in foraging •  11 months ago

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.

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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:

  1. whether to use cold water or hot water
  2. how long and how often to soak them
  3. whether to soak then with or without the cap
  4. whether to soak them with or without their shell
  5. 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.

image source

How I remove tannins

  1. Gather your acorns and remove the caps
  2. Shell the acorns, then allow them to dry out for a few days.
  3. 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.
  4. Put all your chopped nuts into a large container. Pour enough boiling water over them to completely cover then.
  5. Let it sit for about 24 hours, rinse your nuts and repeat the process.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

Acorn Recipes

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.

Native American Acorn Recipes and Facts
honest-food.net Hint – Try the acorn soup. It is delicious

My other food foraging posts you might be interested in

Edible Daylilies
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
Seed Bombs
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
from Denise

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Thank you so much for this breakdown! There are so many oak trees near me and our pet piggies love them, but there are such abundance that I'd love to try making some acorn flour. Removing the tannins seems like a bit of work but a meditation in way. Thanks again for offering your wisdom.


You are quite welcome!

Very informative! I've wondered how to process them. We have several oak trees in our creek. It's filled with wild edibles. My favorite is the black walnut but they're impossible to process. Haven't tried acorns yet. I wonder if they can be added to homemade wine or Mead for their tannin. I have a lb of hazelnuts in the freezer right now. Hoping to sprout them in the spring. They're a Missouri native. The Missouri department of conservation was sold out apparently because the squirrels got half their nuts :-P


I haven't made wine years. It is not a good thing for Diabetics to drink, so I really don't know anything about using them in wine. However, I saw a few websites specifically talking about acorns and wine when I was fact checking this article. I'd try Google and include both acorn and wine in your search term.

Ah the corn that grows on trees...acorns and chestnuts were referred to as this by early settlers. Good article thanks for sharing your experiential knowledge on this! I have planted some Bur/Gamble crosses on my place but lost most of them due to unusual summer heat . A couple survived and I'll plant more. Lost most of my chestnuts too. A great book on this is : Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture by J Russel Smith written in the 1930s


I wonder what the chance of me finding an electronic version of the book is. I can no longer read printed books and need something I can blow up the size on my computer. Thank you for the information and I will see if I can find a copy.


I found a scanned PDF copy of the book in the public domain at https://soilandhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/01aglibrary/010175.tree%20crops.pdf if anyone wants a copy.


Amazing. Thanks!


Awesome! I have a hard copy and it's really good. Yeah I figured it might be in the pubic domain because of its age.

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Thank you VERY much!

Hejsan Here in Sweden we have lots of eek trees. Recently, I thought when I saw the fruits of Ek. I thought so much food. So I checked it up and it should be awesome emergency food .....


Greetings Hejsan! I agree completely it is a GREAT emergency food but it can also be used when it is not an emergency. It helps you eat more naturally, with less chemicals and helps you save money to use on other things!


Forgive me Hello, hello in Swedish
Completely with you, we should eat better!

Thanks for all of the great information!
We have been investigating using acorn flour as a replacement for the wheat flour we use when making bread. What you have written has inspired me to go around my local parks and try to identify the oak trees around here so we can gather acorns in 2018.


Don't get discouraged if you don't find any at first. In my area, all the oak trees are a variety that only produces acorns every 2 years. There are a couple of varieties that produce twice a year, but they are not native to my area so I don't really know much about them.

Thank you for another very useful post, as usual from you.
Acorns are one of the most abundant tree nuts we have and probably the LEAST used owing to the bitter tannins. It is surprising that someone hasn't figured out a way to process them commercially.
They are hard to shell, but so are black walnuts and folks have addressed that problem. Sound like a challenge to me. Maybe I'll work on that this year. Has anyone ever heard of an easy/automated way the shell acorns?


Different varieties have different types of shells. Some are very easy to crack and peel, others are tougher. I haven't heard of an automatic way of shelling them, but I have never looked either. If you could invent a low cost, homeowner size, you would be doing a GREAT service to the world.

Wow! Such great information. I knew that acorns were edible however, the process to get there is not as complicated as I had imagined. I love that you broke the process down into easy to follow instructions and that you have more unusual edibles to read about. Thank you. Happy New Year! 🐓🐓


Thank you and Happy New Year to you too!

Great post @fernowl, very happy to have found your blog I'm following you for sure now.


Thank you very much! I saw your name the other day and wonder if that is Trucklife as in Truckers Life? I ask only because my husband was a trucker and I drove for about a year myself.


No not really we live in truck which we have been converting into our home. we were mobile but our engine needs some work and we are currently on a piece of land until we can finance that, but between converting and mechanics it's a wee bit expensive so we wait patiently. We are lucky where we are though. I hope to get my truck license one day, my partner has done all the driving up until now. How did you find the driving?


I am not sure if you are in the USA or not, but that is the only experience I have had. I did not like being on the truck. It is not good for your health. It is far too much sitting and far too much stress. Access to food is horrible leaving little choice but fast food or eating out of cans while on the road. Schedules are so tight there is little time to exercise and often hard to find time to go to the bathroom. This makes truckers VERY prone to blood clots in the legs and heart attacks. That is how my husband died. He thought the pain in his leg was his knee giving him problems again, but it was a massive blood clot and when it broke lose, his heart stopped and they could not restart it. People don't realize that almost everything they own and every bite of food they eat depends on truckers, but it is a horrible job with lousy pay for the majority of them. There are a few jobs that allow you to run legal and pay decently, but they are hard to find and harder to keep.

We were married over 25 years and his bring home pay after taxes, insurance, etc., etc., was about 40% less when he died than it was when we married. Like every other business, when the CEO wants a bonus or a pay raise, it is the people that do the hard work that get cut short.


No I'm not in the U.S, We're currently in Spain. I always imagined it would be a tough life being a trucker. I'm real sorry to hear about your husband.
For us the truck is our home and allows us to move about and see new places and meet new people. It's true what you say about people not being aware where their food comes from, it's really a profession that is over looked. I hope you have a very happy end of year and a great start to 2018.

I love posts like this! Always something to learn. Thank you for sharing


You are very welcome and thank you for reading!

Very useful info! I hadn't heard about chopping the nuts before soaking. Is it pretty easy to shell the acorns?


That depends on the variety. In that aspect, they are a lot life pecans. Some are thin shelled and easy to crack, some are a little harder. But that are not any I know of that are as hard to crack as say a Walnut.


I have never shelled a pecan... do you just use a handheld nut cracker for pecans and acorns?


You can use a nut cracker for some of the harder ones, but there are varieties that can easily be cracked just by squeezing two nuts together. Often they are called paper shelled but it is thicker than paper. To learn exactly what kind are in your area, gather a few leaves (when green) and some nuts. There are online sites that have photos of a large number of the varieties. Once you know what type yours are, google can lead you to specific information on that tree. There are sites that talk about how to shell, how to remove the tannins for that specific tree, the nutritional content and much more.


Excellent, thanks for those tips! Harvesting acorns is on my must do list for 2018 :)

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Thank you!

There's nothing like Acorn flour, it is so amazing! My favorite variety of Oak is the Chestnut Oak, fattest acorns, and I love their beautiful chunky bark... Nice blog, new minnow here, following!


Welcome schoonercreek! I have never had any Chestnut Oak. The only thing that grows around my place is Red and White oaks. I need to plant something else where the downdraft took out my HUGE old red oak a couple of years ago. I'll check out the Chestnut and see if it will grow in my area.

@team-solutions has promoted your work :)
Thank you for the great content!


Thank you for your efforts!

Don't Eat Me PLEASE!acorn
Greatly informative post! =)


LOL, unless you have leaves, drop nuts on the ground or taste like herbal tea, you've got nothing to worry about, =)


That was a character i made drawing from these Giant Oak Acorns! They were like the size of large Avocado pits... but with the little hats. =)


Good Work! I wish I could draw. Those acorns sound like they are HUGE!

That info is fascinating! I guess I thought acorns were just great goat nibbles! I've got two oaks in my yard that are probably over 50 years old, as the house was built in the 1960's. Very interesting...thanks for sharing.
Upvoted and following.