More people are looking for that food or pill that will improve health. Well, instead of a cache of pills or some over processed beverage drink, let's consider eating what squirrels and bears eat....acorns.
In an review article in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, researchers found that the lowly acorn is chock full of healthful stuff. In addition to a whole host of phytochemicals, acorns are a good source of fiber, protein, and vitamins A and E, and unsaturated fatty acids.
Acorns have been used up through colonial times as a food source. But now, most of it goes to hogs and squirrels. Perhaps it is time for us to revisit them as a food source. " From the point of view of their potential applications in human nutrition, acorn consumption falls into 3 categories: acorns as nuts (they resemble chestnuts), as flour (due to high starch contents), or as cooking oil (which presents high similarity with olive oil). In all of these cases, acorn processing usually includes peeling, roasting, or boiling, which might generate by-products (especially those resulting from acorn oil extraction or flour production) with additional potential applications (Deforce and others 2009)."
How can one cook an acorn. From the folks at Livestrong, it seems easy enough. http://www.livestrong.com/article/471623-how-to-cook-acorns/
Be sure to cook them though, raw acorns can be toxic due to the tannis (thus the multiple boiling sessions below).
Things You'll Need
2 large stockpots
Nutcracker or clean hammer
Step 1 - Select acorns to cook. Refrain from choosing acorns with big caps, as they tend to be very bitter. Acorns from white oak trees are typically mild and slightly sweet, while those from red or black oaks contain more tannins and are quite bitter. The Redhawk's Lounge website suggests that you not harvest any acorns without caps because they usually contain worms.
Step 2 - Clean your acorns. Fill a large stockpot about three-quarters full of cool tap water. Dump the acorns into the pot. Take out any floating acorns because these typically contain weevils or worms. Gently stir the acorns with a wooden spoon. Pour the nuts into a colander and rinse under the tap.
Step 3 - Soak the acorns. Refill the large stockpot three-quarters full of cold tap water. Pour the nuts into the pot and let them soak for a minimum of 1 hour to soften the shells. Drain your acorns in the colander and pat dry with paper towels.
Step 4 - Shell your acorns. You can shell the nuts by using a nutcracker or hitting them with a clean hammer. Separate the acorn meat from the shells. Throw out the shells and caps.
Step 5 - Leach your acorns to draw out the tannins. Bring two large stockpots to a boil. Pour the acorns into one pot and let it boil until the water turns dark, usually about 15 minutes. Carefully transfer the acorns to the second pot of boiling water and boil the nuts about 15 minutes. Refill the first stockpot and bring it to a boil. Keep transferring the acorns from one pot of boiling water to the other until the water stays clear. Drain the acorns in the colander and let cool for about 10 minutes.
Step 6 - Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the acorns into a single layer on an ungreased, rimmed cookie sheet. Cook the nuts for about 60 minutes or until they turn a chocolate brown color. Remove the acorns from the oven and let them cool. Salt to taste.
Bang....cooked acorns and a cold glass of brew. Find your inner squirrel!
Adding acorns to the human diet
An article published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety explores the benefits—both from a sustainability and nutrition aspect—of integrating acorns into the human diet. According to the authors, acorns are rich in micronutrients and bioactive compounds and are widespread throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Traditionally, Quercus fruits (acorns) were mainly used in animal feeding, but because of their nutritional value, high content in phytochemical compounds, biological activity (such as antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, and cardioprotective properties), and use in the treatment of specific diseases (such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, or Alzheimer’s disease), people are becoming more interested in adding acorns into the human diet.
In this article, the authors provide an evidence-based review of the literature, with the objective to achieve useful conclusions regarding the nutritional properties, methodologies of extraction, identification, and characterization of a wide variety of bioactive compounds and scientifically-validated bioactivities in Quercus species worldwide. They also examine the industrial by-products from acorn oil extraction or flour production. They present data regarding the analytical techniques, individual compounds, and their bioactivities into tables for easy comparison and review.
The authors concluded that “the information gathered here will certainly be useful to validate the future application of acorns as a functional food or as a starting material for related industries, improving the food chain sustainability, considering economic or environmental standpoints.”