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How to Eat Acorns: The Ultimate Survival Food

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October 04, 2012
How to Eat Acorns: The Ultimate Survival Food - 12

Acorns and other tree nuts are the most valuable food we can get from any wild plant. There are many different types of tree nuts that offer a great back-up food supply at home and in the wild. Black walnut, butternut walnut, pecan, hickory, beechnut, hazelnut and even Pine nuts can be eaten after picking the meat from shattered shells

The common and abundant acorn requires only a nut cracker. But these high calorie nuts were a staple crop to many of our ancestors around the Northern Hemisphere. Coming in at 2,000 calories per pound, this abundant food crop is too valuable to ignore. Just make sure you know an acorn from a buckeye, as buckeyes (and the very similar looking horse chestnut) are poisonous for people to eat.

To prepare palatable acorns, crack them out of their shell and break any large pieces into “pea-sized” chunks. Then soak these acorn chunks in water to remove the bitter and irritating tannic acid. Note that some books instruct us to boil acorns, but this locks in some of the bitterness. You’ll have the best results with warm water.

Soak the acorns for a few hours. If the water was safe to drink, taste a piece of acorn to see if it is still bitter. If you don’t like it, dump off the water (which should be brown like tea), add fresh warm water and soak the acorn pieces again for a few hours. Repeat this a time or two, or three depending on the acorn’s bitterness. Once they taste “OK” (read: bland), let them dry out for a few hours. Then you can run them through a grain grinder, flour mill, or the classic mortar and pestle to make acorn flour. Add this flour to existing recipes; or try your hand at making acorn porridge or hard, brown biscuits. 

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How do you tell if you picked the right tree nuts?
•    Have positive identification with a good book, like Peterson’s Field Guide to Wild Edible Plants.
•    Know the poisonous nuts like Buckeye and Horse Chestnut
•    Don’t collect near roads, dumps, power lines, train tracks or other contaminated areas.
•    Eat only small amounts of plants that are new to you, after you have positively identified it. 
•    Just try one at a time so you can tell which plant you are allergic to, in case of allergic reaction.
•    Don’t try to eat these nuts if you have any tree nut allergies.
•    And last but not least - if you are in doubt, DON’T EAT IT!

Ever try to eat acorns without removing the bitterness? Or, use them as a flour or animal feed? Let us know in the comments section!

Comments (12)

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from DougOlinger 1/22/2014 at 07:09am

so what is the live Oak; red or white?

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from RedDirtSurfer 1/23/2013 at 02:21am

I used to eat acorns when I was a little in Arizona, just for fun.And I've always wanted to try making acorn flour since I was a kid & read the book 'My Side Of The Mountain'. Living in Oklahoma, I've noticed we have Burr Oaks, with HUGE acorns! It seems a shame to see so many rotting on the ground & I've wondered if they can be dried & turned into flour like other acorns or eaten any other way.Also, what is the best time of the year to gather them?Thanks!

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from loric 10/21/2012 at 07:21am

as a child we ate all sorts of tree nuts in the forest. the best acorns are from wateroaks growing in creek bottoms. they are sweet enough to be eaten right off the ground when green. just dont eat too many. acorns from a mature red oak are nearly as bad as persimmons

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from fuglybugger 10/20/2012 at 08:46pm

sasquatch recipe book says that you don't have to soak the nuts... you just have to bend the branch over first before you pick the seed.

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from AlyssaRose 10/19/2012 at 10:38am

So I just tried this the first time last week. Here's what I did, based on online research. After gathering from white oaks, I toasted them a bit in the oven so they would crack open easier (otherwise the shell just kinda mushed under the cracker. Skins were brown and thin.). I pulled out the meats, pulled them in half (they are kinda rubbery at this point) and put them in a pan of water and boiled them, dumped water and repeated about 4 times. The water never did become clear, but the nuts were softer and softer. I then drained them off, and dumped them on a tray in my dehydrator for about an hour. Dried fast (I would also roast in the oven at this point in the future? Just so happened my dehydrator was out on the table). I whirled them up in my vitamix (they were ROCK hard after the dehydrator. My small food processor couldn't handle it) and it made a beautiful flour/meal. Despite what others said above, they aren't totally bland. In fact, after boiling they had a beautiful soft, nutty flavor. But think of this more as a flour/meal grain than a full flavor nut. I now have just a couple cups of "flour" on my counter that I will try baking up today. I've read to substitute equal parts flour in recipes with this. Maybe not the WHOLE amount of flour, but perhaps half. Saw a recipe for an acorn meal coffee cake I think I'll try.

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from Tc505 10/12/2012 at 12:48am

to puffy and birddog---no to puffy, you don't have to allow them to dry. bdog, as far as the book I have says-- the old timers would soak AND roast before pounding into flour and it recommends the white oaks over any of the others.

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from peteyraymond 10/9/2012 at 10:52am

You beat me to the punch, Bazemore, about white oak acorns being sweeter than red oak acorns. As far as identifying the type of acorn you're looking at, note that the leaves of a white oak tree have rounded lobes. A red oak leaf has lobes that are pointed.

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from charliedakota 10/9/2012 at 02:00am

Koreans make acorns into a brown, bland paste and eat the resulting cake/pastry with a mix of red pepper, soy sauce and some spices I couldn't identify.

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from DOCTER56 10/8/2012 at 10:56pm

I was turned on to acorns a few years back. Yes the white oak is much better eating than red but my taste buds tell me that the best, least amount of tannic acid, is from the Burr Oak tree. They are not bad off the tree and are very good after one or two soakings.

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from thebazemores 10/8/2012 at 11:07am

I would like to point out if you are going to try this, I would make darn sure the acorns I was collecting were from an oak in the 'white' oak section and not the 'red' oak section. 'White' oaks (i.e. white oak, swamp white oak, post oak, swamp chestnut oak, chestnut oak, overcup oak, etc.) have much fewer tannins in the acorns than 'red' oaks (i.e. southern red oak, scarlet oak, pin oak, northern red oak, Shumard oak, cherrybark oak, willow oak, etc.) and are therefore much more palatable to animals (and humans are soaking). The 'white' oaks were the ones mainly used by Natives as a source of flour, not 'reds'. Who knows how long or how many soakings it would take to make 'red' oak acorns halfway tolerable.

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from puffy 10/4/2012 at 03:24pm

I notice that most of the acorns in the basket appear fairly dry and brown, but recently when I traveled to the mountains all the acorns on the ground I found were still green. Does this matter? Should I let green acorns dry out in a basket first before soaking and grinding them?

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from DSMbirddog 10/4/2012 at 10:25am

Darn bitter without soaking. I wonder what it would be like if you soaked them and then roasted them a bit. Any ideas, Tim?

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from thebazemores 10/8/2012 at 11:07am

I would like to point out if you are going to try this, I would make darn sure the acorns I was collecting were from an oak in the 'white' oak section and not the 'red' oak section. 'White' oaks (i.e. white oak, swamp white oak, post oak, swamp chestnut oak, chestnut oak, overcup oak, etc.) have much fewer tannins in the acorns than 'red' oaks (i.e. southern red oak, scarlet oak, pin oak, northern red oak, Shumard oak, cherrybark oak, willow oak, etc.) and are therefore much more palatable to animals (and humans are soaking). The 'white' oaks were the ones mainly used by Natives as a source of flour, not 'reds'. Who knows how long or how many soakings it would take to make 'red' oak acorns halfway tolerable.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from peteyraymond 10/9/2012 at 10:52am

You beat me to the punch, Bazemore, about white oak acorns being sweeter than red oak acorns. As far as identifying the type of acorn you're looking at, note that the leaves of a white oak tree have rounded lobes. A red oak leaf has lobes that are pointed.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from puffy 10/4/2012 at 03:24pm

I notice that most of the acorns in the basket appear fairly dry and brown, but recently when I traveled to the mountains all the acorns on the ground I found were still green. Does this matter? Should I let green acorns dry out in a basket first before soaking and grinding them?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tc505 10/12/2012 at 12:48am

to puffy and birddog---no to puffy, you don't have to allow them to dry. bdog, as far as the book I have says-- the old timers would soak AND roast before pounding into flour and it recommends the white oaks over any of the others.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from DOCTER56 10/8/2012 at 10:56pm

I was turned on to acorns a few years back. Yes the white oak is much better eating than red but my taste buds tell me that the best, least amount of tannic acid, is from the Burr Oak tree. They are not bad off the tree and are very good after one or two soakings.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from charliedakota 10/9/2012 at 02:00am

Koreans make acorns into a brown, bland paste and eat the resulting cake/pastry with a mix of red pepper, soy sauce and some spices I couldn't identify.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from DSMbirddog 10/4/2012 at 10:25am

Darn bitter without soaking. I wonder what it would be like if you soaked them and then roasted them a bit. Any ideas, Tim?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from AlyssaRose 10/19/2012 at 10:38am

So I just tried this the first time last week. Here's what I did, based on online research. After gathering from white oaks, I toasted them a bit in the oven so they would crack open easier (otherwise the shell just kinda mushed under the cracker. Skins were brown and thin.). I pulled out the meats, pulled them in half (they are kinda rubbery at this point) and put them in a pan of water and boiled them, dumped water and repeated about 4 times. The water never did become clear, but the nuts were softer and softer. I then drained them off, and dumped them on a tray in my dehydrator for about an hour. Dried fast (I would also roast in the oven at this point in the future? Just so happened my dehydrator was out on the table). I whirled them up in my vitamix (they were ROCK hard after the dehydrator. My small food processor couldn't handle it) and it made a beautiful flour/meal. Despite what others said above, they aren't totally bland. In fact, after boiling they had a beautiful soft, nutty flavor. But think of this more as a flour/meal grain than a full flavor nut. I now have just a couple cups of "flour" on my counter that I will try baking up today. I've read to substitute equal parts flour in recipes with this. Maybe not the WHOLE amount of flour, but perhaps half. Saw a recipe for an acorn meal coffee cake I think I'll try.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from fuglybugger 10/20/2012 at 08:46pm

sasquatch recipe book says that you don't have to soak the nuts... you just have to bend the branch over first before you pick the seed.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from loric 10/21/2012 at 07:21am

as a child we ate all sorts of tree nuts in the forest. the best acorns are from wateroaks growing in creek bottoms. they are sweet enough to be eaten right off the ground when green. just dont eat too many. acorns from a mature red oak are nearly as bad as persimmons

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RedDirtSurfer 1/23/2013 at 02:21am

I used to eat acorns when I was a little in Arizona, just for fun.And I've always wanted to try making acorn flour since I was a kid & read the book 'My Side Of The Mountain'. Living in Oklahoma, I've noticed we have Burr Oaks, with HUGE acorns! It seems a shame to see so many rotting on the ground & I've wondered if they can be dried & turned into flour like other acorns or eaten any other way.Also, what is the best time of the year to gather them?Thanks!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from DougOlinger 1/22/2014 at 07:09am

so what is the live Oak; red or white?

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Write a Comment Your comment (200 characters or less):