Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to Prepare Acorns in the Woods

In many areas of the world wild edibles which can truly provide the means of continued survival are hard to find. Particularly in Northern forests, wild edibles of significant nutritional value are quite rare.

One of the seasonal resources that is available is acorns. In early fall, they can be found in great quantities, littering the ground around any Oak tree. Acorns have been collected on a large scale and used as a significant source of food by many indigenous populations.

The problem with acorns is that they contain tannic acid. Different species will have more or less tannic acid. In addition to being dangerous when consumed in large quantities, the tannic acid makes the acorns taste very bitter. Before they can be eaten, the tannic acid has to be removed from the acorns through leaching.

The most basic way in which this can be done is by placing the crushed acorns in running water for a period of a day or more. This is a slow method, and requires the right type of resources. For the modern bushcrafter, who has access to a cooking pot, there is an easier way.

Gather some acorns and remove the caps. Here I used a small amount in order to make it easier to photograph.

Do not gather any acorns which have holes. The hole is a clear indication that a worm has made the inside it’s home.

Crack all the nuts and remove the shells.

The nuts inside the shell will differ in quality. The longer the nut has been on the ground, the more it will shrivel. In some case it may get moldy or become dark. Discard all such nuts. The ones that are just a bit dry are still good to eat. The one of the left here is not.

Place the nuts in a cooking pot and use a stick to crush them. Here I figured I would use my new canteen cup.

Cover the acorns with water and get a fire started. The way I do the actual cooking depends on the type of wood I’m using. Here I was using Oak, which forms nice coals.

In situations like these, I like to let the fire burn down, and cook directly on the coals.

Bring the water to a boil and let it boil for about 10 minutes. Remove the water, and replace it with fresh water. Put the pot back on the fire, and repeat the procedure several times. The amount of times you will have to do it depends on the type of acorns you are using. The more tannic acid they contain, the longer it will take. You know they are done when they stop tasking bitter.