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How To Harvest Acorns From Your Own Backyard
Acorns have long been a source for food in the Americas. They were just as much of a staple food to Native Americans and early settlers as corn.
Today, few people know that Acorns are edible. Even less known are that they contain amino acids, carbohydrates, minerals, protein, and vitamins. But they also get a bad rap for being high in fat content as well. 100 grams of acorn flour (roughly one cup) contains a whopping 500 calories, 30 grams of fat, and 54 grams of carbohydrate.
But if you've never tried Acorn pancakes, muffins or cookies; you might consider adding an Acorn harvest to your family Fall adventures.
Gather Together:
· A Keen Eye
· Cookie Sheet
· Metal Container
· Nutcracker or Wooden Mallet
· Water
· Bucket or dish pan
· Flour Grinder or Mortar and Pestle
Step 1:
Acorn Harvests begin in the fall, around the beginning to mid-September when an Oak sheds it's seeds (the acorn). And that's when the harvest begins. When an oak first begins to shed it's seeds you can start picking them up from the ground. But it's very important to know what to look for and what to avoid. Acorns can gather mold and disease, so the first word of caution is to inspect your acorns.
Acorns with the caps attached. An oak sheds it's seeds to propagate it's species. When a ripe acorn falls to the ground the cap will detach. If it doesn't, the nut is immature and could be infested with insects or disease.
Acorns with splits. Any split, crack or hole anywhere on the nut automatically discounts that acorn. Water will propagate disease within the nut making it unhealthy to eat.
Avoid nuts with bruised or discolored shells, or if there are dark spots on the outside or inside of the shell once it's opened. All of these discolorations can indicate disease within the nut.
You should harvest at least 1 to 2 gallons of acorns into your gathering basket. Back on your porch or back yard, spend a little time going over each one again to make sure you haven't accidentally missed any rejects. It really does pay to be cautious.
Step 2:
All acorns must be prepared in order to eat them. There are just a few easy steps needed to do this.
Roasting Your Acorns:
The first step is to dry your acorns. You should do this to store them for later processing. But it's also important in maintaining a healthy nut for consumption. So the first thing to do is spread your acorns on cookie sheets and roast them in the oven at 250° for 20-30 minutes.
For long storage you will need to dehydrate the acorns thoroughly. If you don't they can still gather mold and mildew. Once you have roasted the nuts, place them on wire cookie sheets and them in a very dry location. If you have a wood burning stove, or fireplace, you can set them in a metal bowl next to the heat for 3 to 4 days and allow them dry out.
Shelling the Acorns:
This is probably the hardest step as it takes a little muscle and can be time consuming depending on how many acorns you harvested. The best advice is to ensure your acorns have been dehydrated. This will make the shells brittle and removing the nut a lot easier.
You can use a wooden mallet to break several nuts at a time. You can use a nutcracker. Or you can invest in a nut-cracking device that shells acorns for you. These run about $140, but if you're going to harvest for years to come, it might be a worthwhile investment.
Once you open the shell, you're after the nutmeat on the inside. If you have dehydrated your nuts properly, they should just fall out. If not, you may need a table knife or nut pick (which usually comes with a nutcracker set) to pull the nut out. Drop the nut into your bucket or dishpan and discard the shells.
Step 3:
Leaching The Nuts:
Acorns contain Tannin. Tannin is Any of various compounds, including tannic acid, that occur naturally in the bark and fruit of various plants, especially the nutgalls, certain oaks, and sumac. -
Tannin has a very adverse affect on the human digestive system. It's also what makes the acorn taste bitter if you eat a seed right out of the shell. But there's an easy way to remove the tannin from the acorn.
There are two methods and each one produces a different tasting nut.
The cold water method is to place the nuts in a dish pan with water and let them sit for 3 days. Each day you should pour off the brown discolored water, gently rinse the nuts and refill the pan until the next day when you repeat this process.
The quicker and what I think is the better way is to boil the nuts. Put the nuts into a large stew pot and cover them with twice as much water. Bring the water to a full boil and let them cook for about 5 to 10 minutes. Pour off the dark water, gently rinse the nuts with warm water. Then refill the pot and boil again. You'll need to repeat this process for about 5 or 6 times until the Acorns taste mild.
You must dry the nuts when you're done. The quick way is to spread them out on a bath towel and get as much water off of them as possible. Then pour them onto a cookie sheet and bake them in a very low temperature oven for about 5 minutes. You want to make sure you don't burn them!
Step 4:
Grinding Into Flour
The last step is grinding your completely dried nuts into flour. You can use the old fashioned way and try your hand at a Mortar and Pestle. You can use a crank food grinder (which is the method I prefer), or you can use a food processor or coffee grinder. But be careful with the electric processors, if your nuts aren't completely dry you could create a paste instead of a flour. But if acorn butter is what you're going for, this is a good method.
Once your nuts are ground to a fine powder, wrap it in a large cotton sheet and store in a very dry area for about 6 hours. Then you can transfer the flour into glass jars for storage. When stored at room temperature in a dark location (ie: a pantry) it can be kept for long periods of time without going rancid.
Acorn flour is a lot like cornmeal, rather than a fine flour. It makes a great substitute for your favorite cornmeal recipes. You can use Acorn flour for bread, muffins, cookies and pancakes.
For More Information:
· Davebuilt Nutcracker - Nutcracking Device
· Harvesting Acorns & Cooking Recipes
Additional Tips:
· When you're harvesting, don't rake the acorns in a large pile first. This can damage the shells and split otherwise healthy nuts before you have a chance to inspect them.
· Wash your acorns before you give them a second inspection. Dirt can hide imperfections in the nut.
Be Careful:
· Acorns can get very hot to the touch after roasting. Be very careful in spreading them and removing them from the cookie sheet.
Created: 08.25.2009       Updated: 08.25.2009
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