As many of you know by now my book, At the Garden’s Gate, is completed!!! It’s a great feeling to see a dream come true. Writing a book is a journey, one with ups and downs, but worth it for many reasons.
My book includes twelve edible and medicinal plants I have come to know over the years. Today’s blog post will begin a journey into some of the tree nuts our forested areas supply. Trees produce quite a variety of edible and nutritious nuts that are often gathered in the fall of the year. But, many have gotten forgotten or at the very least are misunderstood in terms of their food value. When one steps into herbalism or foraging worlds this is not the case. Nuts are an important food source and like acorn flour can be made or added into a variety of recipes.
The other day I sparingly added acorn flour to my pancake recipe. I have a small amount left from the flour I made two falls ago. It is mild and pleasant and lasts a long time without going rancid in spite of the oils in its composition. Slightly nutty in flavor it mixes well with brown rice flour or organic, unbleached unbromated flour to make a crepe like thin pancake that I happen to like. Haven’t had an opportunity to make more flour lately and the acorns I see here and there remind me of their value and worth as a food.
Oaks, tall and sturdy, provide homes for over 400+ wildlife species. ( Doug Tallamy, Bringing Nature Home) They are often a dominant forest tree especially in NE America but also found in other parts of the world. Botanists broadly categorize them into white oaks (rounded lobed leaves) or red oaks (pointed lobed leaves). Of course there are exceptions.
White oaks happen to be dominant on the eastern seaboard of North America but red oaks are indigenous to this continent especially east of the Mississippi from Florida to Upper Canada.
Acorns drop from late August to mid-October. White oaks produce every year and red oaks tend to produce every two years. But even that is not entirely accurate as there are acorns on the red oak that are ready to drop one year and more drop the next.
There are mis-perceptions and prejudices about eating acorns, such as: “they are for the squirrels!” or “they are too bitter to eat” or “too bug infested.” Yet on the west coast of the US, acorns were/are considered sacred food and used as medicine. Bobby Lake- Thom, in Call of the Great Spirit, relates his journey of healing and self-discovery that included acorns and use in food as part of his sacred journey. This is similar to the east coast tribes’ use and appreciation for corn also deemed sacred.
Another myth that Samuel Thayer dispels in Natures Garden, is that foragers often prefer white oak as the acorn of choice
and disregard in many cases, the value of red oak varieties. His research and use of many acorn varieties for food states that this is simply not true. Several varieties of acorns from both broad categories of white vs red are used. It is the size and the availability that are some of the most important factors in gathering and consumption. In fact, scientific research does not support the claim the whites are tastier than reds.
How does one go about making acorn flour? Tune in for my next blog post.
Judith Dreyer, MS, BSN, Writer, Speaker, Holistic Health Consultant and Workshop Presenter, Master Gardener.