How to Eat Acorns in Delicious Acorn Recipes
If you have an oak tree near your house, chances are you’re familiar with having your yard and sidewalk covered with acorns every autumn. Chances are you’ve also been ignoring those acorns or even wishing your tree would stop dropping them. But you don’t have to let those acorns rot in your yard. (Your oak tree has, after all, worked really hard to produce them, and they can’t all be eaten by squirrels.) Here’s the solution to a yard full of acorns: gather them up and eat them! People have been doing it for centuries, yet a lot of us still question whether they’re edible or not. Let me tell you, they’re not only edible; they’re delicious and nutritious.
Keep in mind that raw acorns contain tannins that, if eaten in large quantities, can inhibit your body’s absorption of nutrients. Not ideal. One or two won’t hurt you, but don’t eat a handful. The incredible benefits of acorns come in after properly preparing them through the easy process of “leaching” out the tannins.
Health Benefits of Acorns
Several recently-published scientific studies have explored the effects of acorns on human health. They’ve been very positive; eating acorns has been shown to provide antioxidants, fight dementia, combat asthma by reducing inflammation, among a host of other benefits. Acorns contain protein and healthy unsaturated fats, and they’re a good source of zinc, iron, manganese, and potassium, as well as vitamins A and E. One researcher believes we’re entering a “new age” for acorns, as we realize an incredible amount of this wild, edible, highly-nutritious food is going to waste all over the world.
This is huge: acorns are FREE. Nature’s gift to you, foraged from your own yard or nearby forest. Substituting home-made acorn flour for store-bought flour in recipes means you shave money off your grocery bill, and you can feel good about making something from scratch.
There are several articles out there detailing how to turn acorns into an edible snack or into acorn flour that can be used for baking. I personally have found that some of them make the process a bit more complicated than necessary. It’s really not complicated. Below is a tried and true (and easy) method of preparing acorns to eat.
What You’ll Need to Make Acorn Flour
- Acorns (however many you want to deal with)
- Small pick-like tool (I use a small butter knife)
- Jar with lid
Gather Your Acorns
Find an oak tree that has dropped its acorns. Be certain you know the history of the yard; you don’t want to pick up acorns from a lawn that has been sprayed with chemicals. While gathering acorns, discard any that are green (unripe) or any with holes in the shells. A hole indicates that a worm, called an acorn weevil, has been living in the nut, and you probably don’t want to be eating that worm.
Do A Float Test
Once you have your desired amount of acorns, you should do a “float test” to further weed out any bad ones. Just fill a bucket with water, dump your acorns in, and discard any that float. These have likely been infested with an acorn weevil. Ones that sink are likely going to be okay.
Shell the Acorns
Next you’ll need to get the acorn “meat” out of the shell. I’ve found that the easiest way to do this is to lay out a dish towel, set some acorns on one end of the towel, fold the other end over the acorns, and just give each a quick bang with a hammer. One good whack should open them up.
Use your pick tool (a small butter knife works great) to scrape the meat into a small bowl of water. The water keeps the acorn pieces from oxidizing. The inside of your acorns should be yellow. If the inside is mostly brown or powdery, throw the acorn away. If some of the yellow part can be reasonably salvaged, that’s great. Warning: you may find a worm! If the worm is on one end, and you can save the meat from the other end, that’s great. If the thought of eating something that touched a worm freaks you out, no problem, just throw the whole thing out (or compost it). You’ll want to be conscious of the thin papery layer between the meat and the shell. Remove as much as you can because it just adds unwanted tannins.
Blend the Acorn Pieces
Once you have a bowl full of yellow acorn pieces, dump it all into a small blender or food processor. Blend with some water until you have fine pieces that are no larger than grains of sand. Dump this mixture into a jar. To make sure you get all the pieces stuck to the side of the blender, use water to rinse the remaining particles into the jar. Fill the jar the rest of the way up with water, cap it, and shake vigorously. You’re done for today! Put your jar into the fridge (it should stay in the fridge throughout the rest of the process) and wait until tomorrow.
Remove the Tannins
At least once a day, dump out the old water. When you replace it with fresh water, shake the mixture thoroughly to make sure the acorn mush gets broken up. The first day, you’ll notice the water is dark. The color comes from the tannins leaching out of your acorns. As the days go on, you’ll see the water remaining lighter and lighter. Once it is clear, or almost clear, the acorn pieces should be ready. You can always try eating a little bit to see whether the bitterness has gone away. This process can take up to a week, but you can speed it up by changing out the water twice a day.
Dry the Mixture
If you’re going to use your new acorn flour in a recipe right away, you can skip this part. But if you want to store it for later, you’ll need to thoroughly dry it out. This can be accomplished by pouring the whole mixture into a cloth and squeezing out as much water as possible. Then spread the little acorn bits thinly across a baking sheet. If you put this in the oven on a low temperature (around 150 degrees), it should dry out over a couple hours. Periodically turn the mixture to ensure all of it has the chance to dry. Once you are certain there is no moisture left, you can save your acorn flour in a jar in your pantry for whenever the baking mood strikes. It should stay good for months.
What Can You Do With Your Acorn Flour?
This is the exciting part. You can substitute acorn flour for regular flour in almost any recipe. Be aware that acorn flour does not contain gluten and therefore does not stick together and rise like regular flour does. This means you’ll usually need to use a combination of both flours in your recipes.
Since I am not a great experimental chef, I tend to make other people’s tried-and-true recipes. Below are some of the best and tastiest ways to use acorn flour.
Acorn flatbread: This is my personal favorite, and one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made. You can turn your acorns into simple, rustic bread. The flatbread is perfect for dipping in soup, or spread on some ricotta cheese and rosemary for a hearty appetizer.
Acorn pancakes: Acorn pancakes with maple syrup makes for a delicious breakfast on a cold autumn day.
Acorn tortillas: You can make your own healthy tortillas with a combination of acorn flour and whole wheat flour.
Acorn cookies: The only thing that can make maple shortbread cookies better is the addition of acorn flour.