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It’s acorn season. I’ve long been curious about foraging for acorns, learning how to prepare them to be eaten, and seeing what they taste like. During October, a small troop of children probably could gather bushels of acorns in the woods around Acorn Abbey.

I’d like to find a good anthropological history of the acorn, if such an opus exists. It would be fascinating. For those of us whose ancestors are from northern and western Europe, or from North America, acorns are in our DNA. Acorns as a foodstuff were critical to migration and survival. If you go into the woods today and gather acorns for a while, it’s easy to imagine how the acorn economy would have worked. The gathering, almost surely, would have been children’s work. Then I can imagine the whole tribe sitting in the afternoon sun and cracking out the acorn meats as they talked. A huge amount of labor was involved, but acorns also are an abundant source of food that come just at the right time, before winter sets in. The gathering actually is a weeks-long process. You go out and gather every day during acorn season, so that you pick up the acorns soon after they fall. If they stay on the ground too long, they’ll become wormy, or the squirrels will beat you to them.

I’ve posted in the past about going foraging with Euell Gibbons many years ago. Gibbons’ now-classic book Stalking the Wild Asparagus has a section on acorns. I have other books on foraging which include sections on acorns. The Internet also is rich with how-to articles on acorns. The problem with acorns is that they contain tannic acid. There is so much tannic acid in some acorns that it would injure the kidneys if you ate the acorns without removing the tannin. There are two basic ways to do this. You can boil the shelled acorns for a couple of hours, with several changes of water. Or you can grind and soak the acorns in cold water. The American Indians used to put their acorn meats into some kind of sack or skin and leave them in a cool, running stream for a few days.

I’m planning to process my acorns with cold water. Though it takes longer, less energy is involved, and I feel sure it was the method that our ancestors used. After I’ve done this and eaten some acorns (that may be a week or two), I’ll post again.

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