AcornsQuercus alba (white oak)Quercas rubra (red oak)Processing Acorns: Step by StepAcorns are one of the signatures of autumn, all the essence of the mighty oak is distilled into thehumble acorn.Acorns have largely fallen into disuse by humans as a food, much less as a staple food. Acornsused to be such an important crop that whole cultures were centered around them, especially themany Native American tribes of the Atlantic coast. Today few people have ever even tasted anAcorn, much less eaten a hot, buttered Acorn muffin, though many are dimly aware that they aresupposed to be edible. Perhaps this is because they are intensely bitter when eaten fresh out ofthe shell, unlike the wild Black Walnuts and Hickory Nuts which still have faithful people willing togo to great pains to extract their sweet, flavorful nutmeats. Acorns require an extra processingstep to leach out the bitter tannins that make them unpalatable in the raw. Or perhaps it isbecause acorns have such a high content of fats and carbohydrates, undesirable traits in today’sculture, but of paramount importance in primitive societies for sustenance. 100 grams of acornflour (roughly one cup) contains a whopping 500 calories, 30 grams of fat, and 54 grams ofcarbohydrate. They also rate pretty high for vitamins and minerals in a nutritional profile, truly asurvival food of high degree.Step One: Harvesting the AcornsHarvest Acorns every year, usually in mid-late September. The best places to harvest them are ingrassy parks, mowed lawns or waysides as it is very difficult to gather them in the undergrowth ofthe woods or tall grass meadows. Oak trees seems to have a cycle of production, so that the oakthat yielded heavily one year might be dry for the next few years. This can make it tricky to find agood spot as Acorn harvest tends to move around and be somewhat hit or miss from year to year.Harvesting is as simple as picking up the acorns off the ground and putting them into a bucket. Itry to get the fresh fallen Acorns early in the season, before they have started to get weathered orburied in leaf fall. Sometimes they are green when they fall, sometimes brown, either way is finefor collecting. Acorn flour yield is roughly 2:1, so two gallon buckets of whole acorns will yieldclose to 1 gallon of acorn flour.All Acorns are edible, but some varieties are larger than others and some contain less tannic acidso are much easier to process. Oaks are divided into two main families—red oaks and whiteoaks. Red oak leaves have pointed tips and white oaks have more rounded lobes on their leaves.Step Two: Baking the Whole Acorns on Cookie SheetsWhen I bring the Acorns home, I don’t always have time to shell them right away so I might needto store them. The problem with this is that there is a certain little moth that lays its eggs inside theAcorns and if I wait too long, the larva will have hatched and eaten some of the nutmeats. In orderto kill these eggs, spread the acorns (whole, in the shell) on cookie sheets and roast them in theoven at 250° for 20-30 minutes. This will allow for a few days before further processing, but forlongkeeping, it is necessary to dehydrate them to avoid mold (I learned this the hard way!). Thisstep should be done within 24 hours of harvesting the acorns.Step Three: Shelling the AcornsShelling the acorns is the most difficult step. I used to crack each acorn by hand with a nutcrackerand it was a very time-consuming with low yields. I have since developed my own technique forcracking large quantities of acorns in relatively short order. Dehydrating the acorns thoroughlyhelps to make their shells more brittle and makes the nuts come loose from the shells easier. Ihave learned that dehydrating them is essential in efficient shelling techniques.