Uses for Acorns


#1

Hey all,
I recently harvested some acorns. I used a third to make acorn butter. What are your favorite methods for preparing and using acorns? Pancakes? Bread? Pickling? Any and all input is appreciated!

Thanks,
The Paleo Gardener


#2

Have you thought about using them as a dye? I’ve been experimenting with natural dyes lately. You can get some nice colors using just plants, but if you want to keep the color from fading or washing out, you really have to use a mordant such as tin, copper, or alum. Tannins (like those found in acorns) are the only natural mordant that I know of. I believe that it would give you a dark brown or black.


#3

I’ve always wanted to get better with understanding how to process and cook acorns. I’ve tried a few times and successfully failed. :smiley:


#4

starfish,
They definitely yield a brown dye. I experimented with various straining methods, and the handkerchief I tried took on a brown color. It seems to have come out in the wash, however.

Peter,
As for processing, I seem to have found a pretty good method. I got lucky and found some nice large acorns, so it was fairly easy to cut them open with a knife and separate the nutmeats from the shells. Then I ground up the nutmeats pretty finely (next time I will grind them into larger chunks for easier straining). Then, I brought some water to a boil and put them in for about five minutes. I strained them, and they were pretty much ready to go. It was still a bit bitter (another boiling would have fixed it, but it was difficult to strain due to how finely I had ground it), so I just mixed in some brown sugar (we were out of honey at the time, sadly, so I thought brown sugar would be the next best thing) and raw cacao powder to make some tasty acorn butter. I still have lots of acorns, though.


#5

@ PG, your acorn butter sounds good :smiley:

Last year, first time trying acorns, found boiling (without grinding) in several water changes, then baking in my toaster oven removed most of their bitterness. Came out with a consistency halfway between corn and peanuts, with a taste closest to maple syrup. Really worked. Decided cooked acorns make a just fine staple far as I’m concerned :slight_smile:


#6

@Dan- that sounds great, but I would watch that I got enough fat in my diet, if I were trying to make acorns my main protein source.


#7

Acorns are more than half fat by weight ;D


#8

Really more a hypothetical staple. Better than wheat, most likely. But biggest issue I see is storage year round. Only method I know involves drying in shell, then keeping in a dry place for longest storage. Red oaks ought to store longer because of greater tannin (also have more fat than white oaks, I think).

But in the wild, without a climate controlled space, how can you store acorns, even for a winter?

Plus, how would you deal with needing to move with the food that makes up the rest of your diet? Might work great teamed up in settlements along salmon run rivers but what about if settlement life isn’t an option? Might just not work as a major food source without a settlement?


#9

I tried acorns this year. I didn’t do the boiling thing because I didn’t wanna harm the sugars in them, but I discovered that if you don’t want to do that you have to use RUNNING water, like a lot of natives did. They learned from trial and error and apparently I’m on the same road… most of the time there’s a reason why they did things the way they did.

Mine sucked, in that mouth-puckering sense. If I’d grabbed enough off the tree I’d be trying the grind & quick-boil method as it seems that most people have the best luck with it.

I want these to taste good so badly! I need to convince the wife on it!


#10

[quote=“Dan Garmat, post:8, topic:1576”]Really more a hypothetical staple. Better than wheat, most likely. But biggest issue I see is storage year round. Only method I know involves drying in shell, then keeping in a dry place for longest storage. Red oaks ought to store longer because of greater tannin (also have more fat than white oaks, I think).

But in the wild, without a climate controlled space, how can you store acorns, even for a winter?

Plus, how would you deal with needing to move with the food that makes up the rest of your diet? Might work great teamed up in settlements along salmon run rivers but what about if settlement life isn’t an option? Might just not work as a major food source without a settlement?[/quote]
The natives in my area, the Ajachemem, made large willow withe baskets some three feet tall or a bit smaller. The bitterness of the willow kept rats and deer from wanting to chew through. Acorns store just fine for one or even two years as long as they are dry and out of the sun all the time. Dont you have woodpeckers where you live who store acorns in tree trunks? I could go take a picture of one and post it on this thread if you could use a visual.
In my local wilderness, the deer alternate between the foothill valleys and the mountains (not longer than 15 miles, I think), though they used to go farther toward the coast than they are able to now. Deer love acorn rich areas and like to stay in them for most or all of the seasons here, though that might not be the case in areas that freeze more than here.


#11

I’ve usually boiled them which made a slightly hard meal. I only recently this year learned that cold water treatments create softer, more stick meals, which are better for things like tortillas. That means I’m one step closer to my goal of making wild tacos!


#12

If I ever were to gather and process acorns (some day!), I would save the tannin-rich water for use as a hair and face rinse. Tannins are great for the skin (as long as one doesn’t soak in them too long, I suppose).


#13
I found a better processing method. I placed an acorn on a flat rock and bashed it with a hand-sledge just hard enough to split it. I could then easily separate the shell and nut. This is a lot faster than the knife method (and saves the knife a lot of wear). Also, boiling more times really helped with the bitterness. I was able to remove all traces of it and make a really nice, mild nut butter. I need to go on another harvesting expedition to get more acorns so that I can make flour. I want to try sourdough acorn bread!

#14

Soaking them in cold water with plenty of changes of water, removes tannins (which are toxic and an antinutrient) and bitterness. Native Americans would place them in a bag that water could pass through (such as cotton) and leave them in running water, such as a river, for a few days.

While soaking them, you can remove the ones that float and set those aside in a strainer. Acorn grubs will crawl out of them and you can eat those too.


#15

Haha, I haven’t been brave (or hungry?) enough to try the grubs yet.


#16

I’ve been making pan-fried bread out of the acorn flour I’ve made from Q. Robur here in England. The recipe is based on a ‘Hard Times’ practice by American pioneers when wheat flour got too expensive. I’ve re-christened it ‘Good Times Bread’ - see here:

I also did a bunch of e-research recently on acorn eating, or ‘Balanophagy’, which may be of interest - I was trying to build a picture of their use in Europe in historic & pre-historic times and suggesting a way forward (or backward) away from agriculture and towards ‘Balanoculture’:

cheers,
Ian


#17

Hey all,
I found out that it is best to cold-soak acorns, since boiling them can “fix” the tannic acid so it becomes unleachable in some circumstances. It takes a while, but is really low-effort. The Native American way was to just bury a bunch of acorns in a streambank for a year and then dig them up and eat them. Unfortunately, I don’t have convenient access to a stream.


#18

Planning to get a hand powered flour mill and would like to use it with acorns. Samuel Thayer says get steel burr, but it’d be better to test a model with acorns before buying, since they are more fatty than wheat. Anyone tried out a particular model, or know anything about it? Thanks!


#19

Don’t get this model


I bought it so that I could grind sprouted wheat berries into flour. It won’t grind your material into pieces small enough to bake with.


#20

Sam Thayer’s book Nature’s Garden, and Beverly Ortiz/Julia Parker’s book It Will Live Forever are the best boos I have found.