Get your copies now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell's or Indiebound.

47 responses to “The Mechanics of Eating Acorns”

  1. Meg Taylor

    There’s heaps of pinoaks where I live, and my parents have a cork oak planted on the naturestrip outside their house. I’ve always wanted to cook with acorns, since I read “My Side of the Mountain”. It’s Autumn now so I’ll be keeping an eye out for them. The pinoaks are street trees, would the acorns be safe or do they soak up pollution while they’re growing?

  2. Tim

    I’ve also experimented with acorns a fair bit and continue to. To deal with the worms: I put my acorns in a dirt sifting box that just fits over my mortar mixing pan. The worms fall through the screen on the bottom of the dirt sifting box and get caught in the mortar mixing pan. I then take the worms out to my pond and feed the bluegill. Chikens love the worms too. Oily acorns can be pressed for their oil. One variety of eastern red oak has produced a delicious oil that compares exactly to pecan oil. So delicious! and good for the skin too. I haven’t yet gotten the variety identified but I remember where those trees are!

  3. tony morton

    Blue Oak acorn flour make a great burrito, just substitute acorn for frijoles.

  4. tony morton

    A technique I’m currently trying to gain an edge in the race for the nut with all the little crawly dudes. The step in the process after gathering is straight to the freezer for a couple of days. Just like the process for the elimination of pantry moth larvae in your oatmeal. Then to the dehydrator as soon as it’s available. My dehydrator can’t come close to keeping up with my gathering.

  5. CJ

    I just collected the acorns that fell off the acorn tree in my yard for fun this year, and I didn’t know about the grubs, so when I found a grub crawling around in the jar of acorns, I was a bit surprised. I finally found that if you dump them in water before you shell them and pick out the floating ones, it’s a safe bet those are the grubby ones. I don’t know if this would interfere with any of the ways to cook them or not, but I figured it was useful.

  6. Barbara Olson

    We just had a wind come through that dropped large green acorns from my tree-I think it is a black oak by what I am finding in books. I went crazy and picked up 22 lbs in about 45 min and they are still falling. . .WHAT TO DO WITH GREEN ACORNS. Somewhere I read that they are not eatable. The brown ones are very small and 2 were mushy when I open them. They are drying in the oven right now to see what happens. Ideas???

  7. carrie

    I’ve heard of people leaving the acorns in a flowing stream for days to leach out the tannins. I am wondering if you could do this in the ocean or if this is crazy talk?

  8. KayDee

    I have located a lovely Burr Oak at a fort near Sacramento. I found the acorns last fall but the ranger cleaned up the last drop before I got to them so I had to wait for this year’s crop to drop and am walking over at lunch each day to collect whatever the squirrels haven’t bitten – these are beautiful acorns! I’m hoping I can roast them, since I’ve tried the flour and wasn’t really excited about it… lot of work, but with foraging sites being more prevalent I’m hoping I can find some great ways to use the acorns I collect. It’s FREE FOOD! :0 thank you for the information!

  9. Shannon Murphy

    I just wanted to share a new shelling trick I learned by accident. I was camping this weekend and found some nice plump acorns. I wanted to taste one to check tannin levels, but didn’t have anything to shell them with. I ended up squashing it with a nice heavy rock (this was on top of another, flatter rock), and it split perfectly in half. I’ve never opened an acorn so easily!

    I ended up gathering a pint or so and taking them home. I tried the rock trick again. It works best if you do it on a concrete slab, but maybe a flat paver brick would work in a pinch. These are northern new mexico acorns, still pretty soft, but as acorn gathering season is upon us I will test it out with some other varieties.

  10. Chris

    I eat them raw and it doesn’t cause me any problems, and they taste good. Maybe a difference in body chemistry?

  11. Rebecca Robertson

    I have several oak trees in my yard and the acorns have been falling like crazy. I am going to attempt making a few things with them. I live on an Indian reservation and my husband is a native. I was taught by elders how to properly leach them etc and am going to attempt making Acorn soup, bread etc. my question is with the acorn soup do you think canning it would be pretty basic? Or is there a special step in keeping the acorn from going bad??

  12. William Rubel

    Fabulous article. Thank you.

    A couple questions. You say that it is easier to work acorns when dried. I have a couple pounds of Quercus chrysolepis that I harvested yesterday. They are, indeed, difficult to process fresh. Can you offer a time frame for drying? I understand that environmental factors would affect that — but if you could talk about about what a “dried” nut would look or feel like — that will be a help.

    I am also wondering if you can recall your source for the yield of 2,000 pounds from a Valley Oak Quercus lobster?


  13. ray

    I just made a quart bag of acorn meal/flower from Chestnut Oaks! Pretty excited. It will end up first being made into speatzle. I boiled out the tannins…5 or 6 times…dried in oven and ground in a coffee grinder. My thumbs are killing me.

  14. goran pavlovic

    I have written a few articles about oaks and acorns and their almost symbiotic link with people since Palaeolithic times. You might find them interesting.

    In this post I tried to answer the question why were oak trees and oak groves considered sacred in the past? Maybe the reason is that oaks are one of the most useful trees in the world.

    In this post I presented archaeological evidence we have for human consumption of acorns during the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Copper age, Bronze age and Iron age.

    In this post I discussed the possibility that it was people who brought oaks back into Europe after the last ice age.

    In this post I tried to answer the question whether the acorn was the original corn and whether this is why are Thunder deities which are linked with oaks are also linked with agricultural grain cults?

    I this post I talk about the origin of Christmas trees (pine and oak). I discussed the possibility that these trees were considered the trees of life because they were the main sources of food during the Mesolithic. I ask whether these two trees are somehow connected to the ancient idea of the garden of Eden, the Golden age “when humans enjoyed the spontaneous bounty of the earth without labour in a state of social egalitarianism”?

    Finally I wrote about the possibility that the it was the consumption of acorns that lead to the invention of grinding stone. And the possibility that the Bulaun stones from Ireland are ancient acorn grinding stones, like the ones we find in North America.

  15. Brian

    Thanks for the how to’s on the precious acorn for food.

    There is probably more enzymes and nutrition in sprouting an acorn slightly before eating them. How would one sprout an acorn for food? I could experiment but you may already know.

  16. Eric

    Hi Hank;

    Thanx for your article and site. Have my first bag of acorns in the kitchen. Its cold and raining in NE this weekend so we will see how it goes. I cured black olives from the nephew’s house near Bakersfield, CA last year; so this year its acorns in New England.


  17. Pete

    Hi Hank,
    I’ve been looking everywhere for some acorn processing tips. I’m glad to have run across your article. What I am hoping to do is make a beer with them – homebrewing is my passion. Free “grain” is hard to pass up. Having the nuts begin their starch to sugar conversion during the germination phase would be important.

    1) How to start that process?
    2) How does drying them at this point work?

    Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  18. Pete

    Pete, Sure they’ll ferment but I’d recommend using amylase to breakdown the starch. You’re not really going to be able to malt them.

  19. Terry Silveria

    I live in Paso Robles (Pass of the Oaks) and we have a lot of Valley Oaks (Robles). Although the shell looks normal, if I can shake the nut inside or if I dry them first to aid in cracking the nut, the nut is always black. What causes them to turn black? It will certainly darken the acorn meal but will it change the taste and is it a problem to eat those acorns after leaching them.

  20. Cleverhand

    I have processed acorns several times using boiling and cold water methods. I have dried them and used them fresh after leaching and I always have the same problem of them being hard to chew. Even in a baked good. Any thoughts?


    I have over 30 live oak. Are they good to eat as well?

  22. Peter

    Thanks for the responses Hank and Pete. The amylase is available at the homebrew store. I’ve just gone outside, grabbed one of the acorns off the ground an pulled the meat out. I tried a nibble. Very tannic. For a quick experiment, I just threw the 2 halves into some water and will see what they turn into after a couple rinses.

    The kids’ll help me gather what I need for this experiment but I think I’m gonna be able to do it – I’ll start with a 2.5 gallon batch this year and if it works out, go bigger next 😉

    Thanks for the article!

  23. Keith
  24. Lucy

    I harvested a few pounds of acorns but cracking them open now I’m finding most to be dark brown or black. Is this just oxidation? Are they still ok to turn into flour? I don’t know exactly what kind of oaks they came from, but I think they’re valley oaks mostly. I live in Northern California in Mendocino County.

  25. The One I Feed » Wild Edibles, part 2

    […] is inevitable. You prefer nuts? WALNUTS are almost everywhere. Make sure to cure them. ACORNS are an indigenous staple as well. They need to be cooked and soaked. The white oak species are […]

  26. Walt

    I have processed some acorns for the first time and need to know what they should feel like when eaten; crisp, hard, or somewhat softer? What is your suggestion for roasting them after leaching the tannins? I put them in an oven for several hours at about 150F and they turned dark. Is it true that if you cook them at higher temps that you loose part of the nutritional value?

  27. Walt

    Hank,…Thanks for your reply. I think that answered my question about the consistency!

  28. Bruce Steele

    I have prepared acorn meal by cold leaching ( mason jar in fridge ) for several seasons. Both coast live oaks and valley oaks take about a week with daily water changes to leach. I have recently discovered that Island Oaks ( Tomentella ) are much sweeter and with one night in the fridge I can get sweet flour ! I am having a good time experimenting with recipes. Although I will not likely get many acorns I am planning on germinating several hundred acorns for out planting. The trees I get acorns from were planted in a city to line a whole street twenty or thirty years ago. I have looked and can find no reference to Island Oaks being sweet but in the ethnographic record the Chumash did say a local oak with acorns slightly larger than pine nuts did bear sweet acorns. Island Oaks have a relatively small dark acorn with a golden color where the cap was attached. They are in a family of oaks called Golden Oaks more common in Mexico.

  29. Jenn

    Hey Hank, I’ve got two year old acorns and I’m wondering if they are still good. They are white oak acorns and when I crack them they are hard and brown all the way through. Are they still good? The last time I made flour from this same batch they were mealy and I”m wondering if they should still be kind of soft. Some of them a certainly no good as they have turned blackest. Many thanks

  30. Dana Corby

    I haven’t made acorn flour in a number of years, as almost all the oak trees around here are infested. But I’m wondering about the tannin levels and general edibility of the Garry Oak of the Pacific Northwest? It’s a nice fat nut like a European oak, but the tree is evergreen like a California live oak.

  31. Micah

    Should I cold leach southeastern live oak acorns before pressing them for oil?

  32. Bruce Steele

    I have been increasing my production this year. I have been lucky enough to find a sweet variety. Island Oak acorns in street plantings. Also used some Cork Oak acorns.Process is the same but the cork oaks go rancid unless processed within a month or two. Live oaks last a long time when dried in the shell but they require a much longer leaching time.
    1. Collect Island acorns with a rake and a dustpan
    2. Put them into a wheelbarrow and fill with water. Most of the leaves and caps will float, the acorns sink. 
    3 Air dry the acorns one to four months. 
    4. Put the dried acorns through a Davesbuilt nut cracker 
    5. Pick out the nuts
    6. Put about 3/4 cup nuts and 6 cups water in the blender and blend into a coarse meal
    7. Pour meal into one quart mason jars, fill with water, put in refrigerator 
    8. Leach with several water changes for about two days( live oaks or valley oaks need about 8 days to leach )
    9. Strain out water and spread coarse meal on cookie sheets to dry in the sun. South facing window
    10 Run the dried meal through a flour mill
    11 Bag and freeze for storage

  33. M

    Collect them, leach in a pot of cold water changing whenever dark until the water remains clear, bake at low temp to kill creatures and prep shells for peeling, peel, repeat leaching process in pot of cold water, place into jar with vinegar, red pepper, garlic, or whatever, put in refrigerator, wait, remove from refrigerator, open jar, put acorn seed in mouth, crunch, enjoy.

Leave a Reply