New England has quite a lot of oak trees. Apparently it’s been a banner year for acorns. That’s according to Channel 4 News but I think we had more acorns last year. Last year I took it upon myself to rid the yard of the little buggers and I was using a snow shovel to push them into the no man’s land between our yard and our neighbor’s. Last year I viewed acorns as a hazard since someone would have broken a leg trying to play in our yard. They are just like little ball bearings and I know from personal experience.
My husband found out this month that a friend of his at his office keeps chickens and that the chickens will eat the acorns. I’d like to say that it was my great idea to collect all our acorns for the chickens but I think it was my husband’s idea of making up a chore for my daughter. She got tired of collecting the acorns after a couple of hours (which I think was really good) so we all joined her in collecting the acorns. It was pretty fun and exhilarating considering you’ve also got to dodge the incoming acorns. My daughter was out there with her skateboarding helmet which I thought looked crazy but she was protecting her noggin.
So I get to thinking that if chickens can eat acorns maybe we could eat them too. I was inspired by my friend Jess with all her hunting and gathering. With some internet research I find out that yes you can eat acorns but they require some processing first. The next afternoon I enlisted the kids to help me find perfect acorns. You don’t want any acorns that look rotten or have tiny holes in them. Collecting smooth acorns hot from the sun really is enjoyable. We are lucky to have the best kind of oak tree for acorns, white oak. In case you don’t know the difference between oak varieties, white oaks have rounded tips on the leaves. I was feeling rather proud of myself, connecting with the earth, and imagining the Native Americans doing exactly what I was doing hundreds of years ago. I learned that acorns were nearly as important a crop back then as corn or beans from Jackie Clay at Backwoods Magazine. I was encouraged by the health benefits of acorns. We had collected a small bowl of perfect acorns.
Next I roasted the acorns for about an hour at my oven’s lowest temperature to dry them out and prevent mold.
I was having a blast shelling the acorns and the kids even pitched in. Such beautiful little nuts. I mean the acorns, not the kids.
Then I soaked the acorns in hot water to leach out the bitter tannin from the nuts changing the water several times until the water stays clear. I dried the acorns overnight in the oven with just the light on and oven door propped open. (I think this is where I went wrong.) I have to mention that my husband did taste the acorns before and after the processing which was incredibly surprising to me considering how unadventurous he really is. So I thought I had some acorns ready for some recipes. First I added the acorns to my Nutella One-Bite Brownies and I ate one but removed the acorn from the other two. I found the nut to be chewy and tasteless. That’s okay… I read that some people enjoy candied acorns. That was my next attempt and I used all the acorns that were left. I used butter, brown sugar and maple syrup and baked the acorns until they were golden. I’m sorry to say that those acorns were completely inedible.
What did I learn from my adventures with acorns? I learned that I could gather food from my yard but would only do so in an extreme situation. I learned that acorns are best left to the squirrels and chickens.
We collected a five gallon bucket of acorns for the chickens and will likely collect more since the acorns are still dropping off the trees. I sent those acorns to my husband’s coworker with one condition… that he send back some freshly laid eggs. I can’t wait for those eggs. But for now I’m happy to be participating in the food chain.