Every plant growing in the wild has either an edible or medicinal purpose. When you realize this, an entire world of opportunity opens up all around you. It is our mission to slowly cover the plants growing wild in San Diego and learn about their uses. This article will discuss acorns!
Acorns are the nut of the oak tree. We have several varieties of oak trees in San Diego and each tree produces it’s own unique variety of acorn. Acorns take between 6 and 24 months (depending on the species) to mature so it is best to gather from nuts that have already fallen. Black oaks were the most popular among the local natives due to their size and flavor.
Many animals rely on acorns as an important part of their diet, but other animals (humans included) cannot digest them raw due to the tannins. Tannins are a chemical found in raw acorns that can cause severe digestive problems which is why it is crucial to leach out the tannins before consuming.
Fascinatingly enough, some animals such as jays and squirrels, stash their acorns away & wait to consume them once sufficient groundwater has percolated through them to leach out the tannins.
How to Remove Toxic Tannins from Acorns:
Cold Water Method: Tannins can be removed by soaking chopped acorns in several changes of water, until the water no longer turns brown. Cold water leaching takes several days to do.
Hot Water Method: Hot water leaching is a much quicker method which requires three to four changes of boiling water. This process can be done in under an hour. Boiling cooks the starch of the acorn, which would otherwise act like gluten in flour, helping it bind to itself. For this reason, if the acorns will be used to make flour, cold water leaching is preferred.
How to Open the Acorn:
There are different ways to crack a nut shell. If you don’t have an actual nutcracker, you can crack it with a hammer. A nutcracker is definitely easier though! Look out for any rotting inside the nut once cracked. Rotten nuts obviously cannot be used.
You will have to grind the acorn in either a manual grinder or a coffee grinder next:
Here is the recipe we used to make our acorn cookies:
Acorn Flour Cookies
1 stick of butter, unsalted, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup and 2 Tbsp. acorn flour
1 cup and 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1. Cream butter. Add sugars and beat until fluffy. Add egg and mix.
2. Mix in baking soda and flours until batter comes together. It will be dark because of the acorn flour.
3. Mix in chocolate chips by hand instead of with beaters, because batter is thick.
4. Drop in teaspoons onto a non-stick or greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for eight minutes.
5. Take out of oven, and let rest on the baking sheet for five minutes before using a spatula to place the cookies on a cooling rack.
They were delicious! It was so exciting to know we created something using an ancient ingredient that the earliest settlers in our city once heavily relied on in their meals. Try it out!
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