Bang, bang, I swing the hammer down, scattering acorns all over my kitchen counter and my floor. Apparently you don’t need to hit the acorns quite so hard. Tap, tap, and I crack them open. I can now pull the shells apart to reveal the nutty meat. I try popping the meat out with no luck. I try using a knife, and then my fingernails. The nut’s meat crumbles a little, but stays in place. My husband, watching me while working on his computer, suggests using our grapefruit spoon. As I gain a little technique, the serrated spoon seems to work the best, and in just three long hours I have a small pie tin full of acorn meats. I had to toss nearly half of the nuts due to worms or rot. I tasted an acorn and nearly spit it out right onto my kitchen floor due to its bitter taste.
Yesterday while collecting the acorns I was full of enthusiasm. It was a pretty day in the woods and acorns were easy to find. I had an aura of self-sufficiency; I knew that no matter what might happen some day I could feed my family. I had never thought about acorns as a food supply before. I fantasized about collecting a bagful every week, free and healthy food. Then the work began, separating the acorns with obvious worm holes, learning how hard to hit the nuts, then dragging the meat out. Tapping away I thought about some of our colloquial sayings such as “he’s a tough nut to crack,” used when it is difficult to really understand a person or to get that person to open up and talk about himself. I cracked open several acorns to find brown dust instead of healthy yellow meat, and I thought about another phrase we use, “He’s a bad nut.” My husband might watch me tapping away at these acorns and think of another use of the word nut, as in “she is nuts to spend her time this way.”
The next step is to grind the meat into a watery powder with my food processor. I end up with a brown gooey mess. Next I pour this acorn paste on a kitchen towel over a strainer. I rinse the paste with cold water and squeeze out the excess liquid, repeating to get rid of the tannins. Tannic acid gives acorns a bitter taste, but after rinsing only a couple of times I try a bite and am pleased. My acorn powder has a light nutty flavor.
My next step was to dry the nut paste, so I spread the acorn powder out on a dish and put the dish into a warm oven. Now I am excited again. A single day of work yielded enough acorn flour to fill one pint jar, but the flour had a good taste.
I think back to when my children were babies. I remember buying the little jars of premade baby food, until one day someone told me I could feed my baby other things. We mashed a banana and fed it to him. I was shocked, for some reason I had thought babies could only eat official “baby food.” From that moment on I enjoyed creating my own healthy food, and I felt good feeding it to them. This was a similar feeling, a revelation that not all food has to come from big box stores. I gardened when we owned a house, I shop farmers markets, but eating edible wild foods seems even more natural, more sufficient. Even so the work to gain ratio is high and it is hard for me to imagine living off of acorns and acorn flour like Sam from the book “My Side of the Mountain.” As modern men and women we really take our healthy, tasty and plentiful food for granted. Preparing the acorn flour really was a lot of work but we will all enjoy eating our pancakes tonight with supper.
Has anyone else tried this, or anything similar? Do you have wild edible food recipes or stories about using gardens and canning to teach children where food comes from? If so, please feel free to share.
The following link to PBS Foods will take you to the recipe I used. If you fix these pancakes please let me know how they turned out. I learned that I need to spend more time in the grinding stage, a few of my pancakes had acorn parts instead of acorn flour.