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46 responses to “Acorns and the Forager’s Dilemma”

  1. Diana Foss

    I can’t believe you didn’t serve those with Brunswick stew!

    But I think it’s great that you’re using acorns.

  2. amy

    Hank – once again yet another great post. This is awesome.

  3. lanesvillelady

    I have never seen an acorn shaped like the one in your photo. They don’t grow them like that here in the East! Ours are red, mostly roundish in shape with a point on the bottom and quite small. In fact probably at least 1/2 as small as the one pictured. There are oodles of them on the trail that I take when I walk Thor in the woods. They are so small that if hit with a hammer they would be just a tiny pile of mush. So acorns here aren’t a thing to consider eating unless you are “nutty”!

  4. Jean

    We have about 16 cups of acorn meal in one cup bags in the freezer. That is this years harvest.
    We use a nutcracker across the top and bottom of the nut, along with some quality time with a nutpick.seems to work good, too.

    I think we did about 3 weeks worth of water changes mostly in a 5 gallon bucket. We did heat the acorn mix but I don’t think we boiled them this time. We did soak them for a while. Then we ground them in the blender and soaked them some more. The last bit was putting the meal in an inside out pillow case to drain. I think a bag in creek would be ideal, the only issue might be guarding it from enterprising varmints.
    I use one cup of acorn meal when I make whole wheat bread. It’s not a big flavor difference, but I like it.
    I am glad to see we are not the only nutty people.

  5. CitronVert

    In Spain, it’s usual to find during the Chritsmas period, many acorns sold along with almonds, nuts… in the markets. I think they are acorns from the Quercus ilex sp. I used to forage them when I lived in Spain, their taste is slightly sweet and not bitter at all.

  6. Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife

    I gathered acorns for the first time this year. I’m in the east too, so none of those long, slender, low-tannin acorns for me. But really they weren’t for me anyway. I gathered them for my chickens. I ran into the acorn weevil problem too, but now that I know what to look for it will be trivially easy to set aside infested acorns next year. I’ll set them aside because the chickens are even happier to eat the weevils than they are to eat the acorns. The weevils come out of the nuts in a day or two and can then be thrown in the hens’ pen. And they love the acorns. I crush them up, a few handfuls at a time, and feed them to the girls. At 1700 calories per pound of the nut meats, that’s a local resource I can in good conscience ignore.

    No trace of off flavors in the eggs thus far. I was afraid they’d start to taste like jamon iberico (not to my liking), but no. Must glean more acorns next year!

  7. Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks

    Very interesting! We started gathering acorns this year to feed to our pigs. We have burr oaks, white oaks, and red oaks. The burr oaks were closest to the pigs, and they’re not bitter at all. I wrote about it here: http://antiquityoaks.blogspot.com/2009/10/hickory-nuts-acorns-and-pigs.html and here: http://antiquityoaks.blogspot.com/2009/09/acorn-harvest.html

  8. codfish

    Hank, that was a fantastic read! Very happy to know that tidbit about squirrel acorn-burying.
    And having a free alternative to chestnuts is valuable knowledge—acorn mousse maybe?

  9. Lisa

    I have just found your lovely blog and am so thrilled that I did. I spend countless hours gathering acorns for crafting and for feeding to our chickens (though as Kate mentions above, our girls prefer the grubs too). I’ve wanted to try making an acorn flour and now I have the little shove I needed. Can’t wait for fall.

  10. Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife

    Hank, no, we’ve not eaten any of them. These are our new layers. We’ll make them into stock when they’re mostly done laying, but that won’t be for at least 1.5 years. I didn’t gather enough acorns to do more than supplement the girls’ feed for a few weeks. So I’m not expecting them (the stock) to taste acornish when we get around to slaughtering them. I’m told acorns can account for 50% of a layer’s feed though.

  11. Matt Ames

    Hank, I’ve always wondered about acorns and buckeyes. You know me, and as a guy who grew up in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and who is also a conspiracy theorist on subjects of government emplosion, I love having every bit of survival knowledge that I can soak into my cranium. So the subject of using acorns for food is right up my alley. I do wonder if you have any recommendations for use while in the wild with limited resources. Also I’m wondering if you’ve ever considered cooking with buckeyes?

  12. Jenny

    I’ve always wondered about acorns too – we don’t have a lot of oak here in the Pac NW, but my family in TX has a bunch on property. I’ll try to find out what they are and have them send some out – they just think of them as ‘stuff that messes up the driveway.’ Terrific post, so informative.

    Hope your ankle’s better soon!

    Jenny

  13. Jean

    I am pretty sure the oaks we used this year were black oaks. They had sooo many beautiful round acorns falling everywhere, that I just couldn’t say no. I stuffed my pockets and all the bags I had with this treasure.
    Our first year of acorn processing, we used a cloth bag in the water closet portion of our toilet. That worked pretty good but we were limited to a small amount of acorn meal, maybe a quart.
    I will enjoy reading a way to make this a bit easier.
    Today it’s Indian corn and acorn meal wheat bread.

  14. suburbanbushwacker

    It’s posts like this that mean you’ll always be my wild food hero hank. Happy new year fella
    SBW

  15. Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener

    Hank – that’s is a fascinating post, as often.

    How did you grind the acorn into flour? do you have a grain mill? the food processor?

  16. Josh

    This was a great post. I look forward to trying the acorn coffee some day. Perhaps next season I’ll come a collectin’ with you, as I’ve never tried acorns before.

  17. Tina

    Wow, so sorry to hear about the achilles tendon! Needing surgery sucks, but the recovery time will definitely speed your book along. Besides, you’ll be back on your feet just in time for Spring! I hope all goes well for you.

  18. OysterCulture

    You’ve inspired me to try cooking with acorns, the piadina sound delicious. Thanks for sharing the trials and successes along the way.

  19. allisen

    this. is. awesome.

  20. adele

    Great post. I remember reading about eating acorns in “My Side of the Mountain,” – the children’s book in which a boy runs away to the Catskills to live off the land – but I thought the process of making them edible was far more complicated than the one you’ve described.

  21. Tina

    Congratulations on the successful surgery! Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery!

  22. islandexile

    Glad the surgery is done and successful! Sorry about the season. I’ll tell my brother who will properly grieve for you. Thanks for all the wonderful posts in 2009. Best to you and Holly for the new year.

  23. noel

    excellent post! hmmm acorns…. i’m intrigued :)

  24. Dawn (KitchenTravels)

    Oh, Hank. So sorry to hear about the Achilles. Hope the healing process goes quickly and smoothly! I am fascinated by your posts. Love the idea of gathering acorns. I’ll have to check the park near us to see how many Oaks there are for future reference. And I had to smile when I saw Adele’s comment, since my 8 year-old son is reading “My Side of the Mountain” right now. Just might have to plan a little Mountain Dinner based on the food items from the book.

  25. Carina

    Hank – This is so interesting! I have been toying with the idea of cooking acorns for a very long time, but everything I’ve read had mentioned days and days of labor to get the tannins out – thanks so much for clarifying the white oak/red oak difference. I’m definitely going to make some oak tea!

    I know you mentioned that you’ll have more posts about this coming up, and I’ll be patiently waiting, however I do have one question. What do you know about when to collect the acorns. The acorns off my parents’ valley oak tree are very green when they first fall off the tree. I noticed in the pictures that yours are brown. Ours don’t turn brown until much later, but often by then they’ve either (a) sprouted, or (b) have bugs in them. Insights on when to gather?

  26. Kevin Taylor

    Spenceviile Wildlife Area still has TONS of acorns laying around, if anybody was interested. Picked up a few myself earlier in the week. Positivly no ducks or squirrels though!

  27. Patti

    Have you seen this pickled acorn recipe?

    http://www.eatweeds.co.uk/spiced-pickled-acorns#more-829

  28. Joey

    Hello Hank,

    I just found your site and am truly excited. In about a month, I am leaving corporate world for that of permaculture/wildcrafting/love all things cooking and food. Thank you for all the lovely info! It will come in good use as I further re-orient towards a more natural life and away from chasing paychecks.

    Best,
    Joey

  29. The Mom Chef ~ Taking on Magazines One Recipe at a Time

    The constant clunk of acorns falling on my roof led me to thinking that there HAD to be something constructive I could do with them. Hence a google search and, voila, a Hank discovery. I’m a follower now. Thanks for showing me a way to use these otherwise lethal missiles from above. Plus, I’m on the east coast so am blessed with the white oak (lucky me!).

  30. Laura

    Thank you so much for posting this! My family and I moved to our home last winter. The lot has a huge oak tree in the front yard that dumps oodles of acorns all over the place. I thought that there might be a use for them and I’m so happy I stumbled upon your website!! I’m looking forward to trying out some recipes! And most definitely will be one of your followers! I love your style of writing!! Thanks again!

  31. Foodie Tuesday: The Element of Surprise | kiwsparks

    [...] industrious as is required for the long and involved process of soaking out the tannins and preparing the acorns for consumption when I don’t even know how successfully I’ll use the flour, let alone how compellingly [...]

  32. John Ratliff

    Dallas, Ft. Worth and South Texas has post oak trees. Not too bitter like a live oak. Try Post Oak acorns. Also, take the caps off the nuts, drop the nuts in a bucket of water. The ones that float are bad ones. The ones that sink are good, no worms. Chow.

  33. Acorn Recipes | A Fundamentalist Druid in America

    [...] and Acorn Cookies, among others), including from people who know food much better than I do, like Hank Shaw (yet another “local”), who also gives recipes for Acorn Flour Cake, Grouse Soup, Acorn [...]

  34. Holm oak acorns (Quercus ilex) and a crack at the forager’s carb conundrum « The Forager's Year

    [...] has been called ‘forager’s dilemma’, the problem of procuring, even in a world seemingly bursting with wild food, the energy-rich [...]

  35. Earl Mardle

    Would nixtamalisation work for getting rid of the tannins? I soak green olives in a wood ash paste for about a week to get rid of the oleopicrins that make olives bitter. It takes almost no energy and the olives are ready to bottle after rinsing thoroughly.

    Would the same thing work for acorns?

  36. How to Eat Acorns: Video Part 2 « First Ways
  37. Margaret

    I processed acorns for the first time ever last month and then made flour and bread. It is some of the heartiest, most delicious, moist and dense bread I have ever had! The bread is SO EASY to make, too. The hard part is, of course, processing the acorns but I’ve been learning how to do it. I loved reading your post because I, too, learned the same things along the way – about the little larvae, that letting the acorns sit for a while pretty much eliminates them, the best ways and times to crack the acorns, how to tell when they are done. It’s really a lot of fun.

  38. DeliciousMystic

    I recently read about a great way to leech the tannins out of the acorns; they stuffed the acorns into panty hose and tossed them into the upper tank on the toilet, so every time they flushed the water was replaced with fresh water, and the tannin-filled water was sent down to the bowl.

  39. Sam

    I’m not sure what part of east lanesvillelady is from, but here in Virginia we have loads of fairly large acorns. In fact I’d say they’re just as big as the one next to your mug but more round in shape.

    Thanks for all your hard work. It really helps. I’m a bow hunter and I love trying out a lot of your recipes. I made your venison steak Diane with my youngest son. He said “mmmmm this is just like meat flavored gum”! I laughed so hard! To my defense the cut was from a mature rutting buck I’d harvested the day before, so no aging and cooking the loin whole meant no hammering…
    Next time I’m modifying the recipe to use medallions!
    Thanks again!
    Sam

  40. TanithT

    Those ‘nasty’ little acorn grubs? Major protein bonus, though they are best cooked separately. They are neutral tasting when raw or boiled, and really delicious fried or roasted. I don’t let any escape during my acorn harvesting, since I teach edible insect cuisine and they’re an excellent local source. I tend to save them up in the freezer until I have enough material for a decent fry-up to share with a class, but they are quite a treat fresh and lightly sauteed in a tiny bit of salted butter or cooking oil.

  41. All About Acorn Flour | A Gluten-Free and Wheat-Free Flour | Spicie Foodie

    […] Acorn flour is naturally gluten free and can replace wheat flour, other gluten free flours, or nut ones too. According to Hank of Honest Food, “Any chestnut recipe can become an acorn recipe, and in fact acorns have been used this way in Europe and North Africa for millennia.” * […]

  42. Crystal

    I moved up north in 2002.. I have a great interest in acorns. The squirrels do eat some types of acorns. But, see now that the squirrels do not bury acorns to hide them.. They bury them to let them sprout.. They then eat the tender sprout instead of the bitter nut.

  43. Crystal

    will one tell me which type of oak tree produces the elongated acorns in the picture above ?

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