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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How to survive eating acorns


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How to Eat Acorns: The Ultimate Survival Food

Tim MacWelch

How to Eat Acorns

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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(The point here is be aware of what you can eat in an emergency. Yes you can eat acorns if you know how to identify them and prepare them. You can also eat them in a non emergency.
This is something everyone should be aware of how to do, survive on the food outside your home if you can't get any food from the grocery store because martial law has been declared etc. Prepare now before its to late and you starve.)
Story Reports
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Acorns are quite nutritious. For example, the nutritional breakdown of acorns from the Q. alba, — the white oak — is 50.4% carbohydrates, 34.7% water, 4.7% fat, 4.4.% protein, 4.2% fiber, 1.6% ash. A pound of shelled acorns provide 1,265 calories, a 100 grams (3.5 ounces) has 500 calories and 30 grams of oil. During World War II Japanese school children collected over one million tons of acorns to help feed the nation as rice and flour supplies dwindled.

Oaks fall into two large categories, those that fruit in one season, white oaks, and those that fruit after two seasons, the black oaks and the red oaks. The latter category is far more bitter than the former. The first category have leaves with round lobes and no prickles at the end of the leaves. The black and red oaks have prickles at the end of their leaves. They also have scales on the cups of the acorns, hair inside the caps, and a sheath around the nut (which always throws a color even when the tannin is leached out.) Some times those in the first category don’t need any leaching, or very little. The rest always do. But first, clean the acorns.

To clean acorns dump them into water and separate the ones that float. Take the ones that sink and dry them in a frying pan on the stove or in the oven at 150F or less for 15 minutes, preheated. Or put them in the sun for a few days. You don’t want to cook them yet, just dry them off and shrink the nut inside making them a little easier to shell. The yield, not counting bad acorns, is 2:1. two gallons of usable acorns in the shell will yield a gallon of nutmeat.

There are three general ways to leach acorns. The least common way is to bury them whole in a river bank for a year, which turns them black and sweet, good for roasting. The other method is to grind them into a course meal and soak several days or weeks (depending on the species) in many changes of cold water until the water runs clear. These will be slightly bland but good for making acorn flour. (Sometimes the leached acorns will be dark but sweet afterwards.) The third way — boiling — is least preferred because if done wrong it will bind the tannins to the acorn and they will not lose their bitterness. Also, when you boil the acorns you also boil off the oil with the tannins, reducing their nutrition. That oil, however, is very nutritious. At this writing it is selling for $182 a gallon. You can make it for far less. There is actually a fourth method that requires lye but it is not commonly used.

Boiling speeds up the process but cooks the starch

The boiling process requires two pots of boiling water. Put the acorns in one pot of already boiling water until the water darkens. Pour off the water and put the hot acorns in the other pot of boiling water while you reheat the first pot with fresh water to boiling. You keep putting the acorns in new boiling water until the water runs clear. Putting boiled acorns into cold water will bind the tannins to the acorn and they will stay bitter. So always move them from one boiling bath to another. Putting acorns in cold water and bringing the water to a boil will also bind the tannin. So it is either use all cold water and a long soaking or all boiling water and just a few hours of cooking. There is one other difference between the two methods.

The temperature at which you process the acorns at any point is critical. Boiling water or roasting over 165º F precooks the starch in the acorn. Cold processing and low temperatures under 150 F does not cook the starch. Cold-water leached acorn meal thickens when cooked, hot-water leached acorn meal does not thicken or act as a binder (like eggs or gluten) when cooked. Your final use of the acorns should factor in how you will process them. If you are going to leach and roast whole for snacking then boiling is fine. If you are going to use the acorn for flour it should be cold processed, or you will have to add a binder.

Personally, I grind mine in a lot of water to a fine meal, let it set, then strain. I add more water to the meal, let set and strain. I do that until the water is clear or the meal not bitter. That takes a few days to a week. Then I dry it in the sun, unless there are squirrels about, then in a slow oven (under 150º F.) I end up with a meal or flour, depending on the grind, that will not crumble when cooked.

The finer acorns are ground the quicker they leach.

Many Native Americans preferred bitter acorns to sweet ones because they stored better. If after leaching there is just a hint of bitterness that can sometimes be removed by soaking the acorns in milk for a while. The protein in the milk will bind with the tannin in the acorns and can be poured off, if there is just a little. To get oil from the cold-leached acorns, boil them. The oil will rise to the top of the water. Also, charred acorns can be used as a substitute for coffee but really nothing is a substitute for coffee.

Whole leached acorns can be roasted for an hour at 350º F, coarsely ground leached acorns slightly less time. They can then be eaten or ground into non-binding flour. To make a flour out of your whole or coarsely ground acorns, toss them in a blender or food processor. Strain the results through a strainer to take out the larger pieces then reduce them as well. Acorn flour has no gluten so it is usually mixed 50/50 with wheat flour. Since acorn flour is high in oil it needs to be stored carefully and not allowed to go rancid. Remember cold processed acorn flour has more binding capacity than heat processed acorn flour.

Live Oak acorns top the food list for birds such as wood ducks, wild turkeys, quail and jays. Squirrels, raccoons and whitetail deer also like them, sometimes to the point of being 25% of their fall diet. Interestingly, the tannin tends to be in the bottom half of the acorn which is why you will often see a squirrel eat only the upper half of the acorn. Squirrels are also not fools. They will eat all of a white acorn when they find one because it is the least bitter. They will bury the very bitter red and black acorns so over time some of the bitterness is leached into the soil. Raiding a squirrel’s hoard will get bitter acorns. By the way, acorns shells and unleached nutmeat have gallotannins which are toxic to cattle, sheep, goats, horses and dogs.

If you use the boiling method don’t throw away the tannic water. The water has a variety of uses. With a mordant it can be used to dye clothing. The tannic acid also makes a good laundry detergent. Two cups to each load but it will color whites temporarily a slightly tan color. Tannic water is antiviral and antiseptic. It can be used as a wash for skin rashes, skin irritations, burns, cuts, abrasions and poison ivy. While you can pour the tannic water over poison ivy, if you have the luxury freeze the brown water in ice cube trays and use the cubes on the ivy eruption.

If you have a sore throat you can even gargled with tannic water or use it as a mild tea for diarrhea and dysentery. Externally dark tannic water can be used on hemorrhoids. Hides soaked in tannic water make better leather clothing. Using the brown water turned hides tan colored and that is why it is called tanning and from there we get the words tannins and tannic. In traditional tanning methods, whole hides are soaked in a vat of tannin water for a full year before being processed.

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Acorn Bread

2 cups acorn flour

2 cups cattail or white flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup maple syrup or sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

3 tablespoons olive

Bake in pan for 30 minutes or until done at 400 degrees.

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Tannic acid irritates the kidneys. At some point irritation become a toxic issue. This is why they are leached. White oak acorns are safe if they are low in tannins, but usually they have to be leached. Fungi is usually not an issue.

Acorns: The Inside Story

Eat the weeds and other things. eattheweeds.com
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Here are some tips on looking for that honey hole where there may well be abundant acorns, even in a year of near total failure of the acorn crop overall. When frost is to blame there are always some areas that for any of several reasons will still have acorns. For example, have you ever noticed that during cold weather a heavy dense fog develops around the lakes? That fog layer can protect those oak trees from frost damage. Check the oaks around the lakes, ponds and rivers.

In survival its all about knowing how. Acorns make an excellent bread. After washing several times to the the bitter tannin out.

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Nuts that can be consumed raw, such as hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans, contain high amounts of tannins. Almonds have a lower content. Tannin concentration in the crude extract of these nuts did not directly translate to the same relationships for the condensed fraction.

Acorns contain such high concentrations of tannins that they must be processed before they can be consumed safely.

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When incubated with red grape juice and red wines with a high content of condensed tannins, the poliovirus, herpes simplex virus, and various enteric viruses are inactivated.

^ Bajaj, Y. P. S. (1988). Medicinal and aromatic plants. Biotechnology in agriculture and forestry 24. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 0-387-56008-4.
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The term tannin (from tanna, an Old High German word for oak or fir tree, as in Tannenbaum) refers to the use of wood tannins from oak in tanning animal hides into leather; hence the words "tan" and "tanning" for the treatment of leather. However, the term "tannin" by extension is widely applied to any large polyphenolic compound containing sufficient hydroxyls and other suitable groups (such as carboxyls) to form strong complexes with various macromolecules.
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