Tuesday, October 25, 2011

California black oak acorns: I was right

Recently I tasted some raw California black oak (Q. kelloggii) acorns - acorns that had dropped from some of the same trees from which John Muir might have gathered up a handful for an afternoon snack.  They had a strong flavor of tannin, but the aftertaste on the tongue was very short lived.  This led me to speculate that the tannins in California black oak acorns are highly soluble in water and could be quickly and easily leached away.

I finally got around to testing my theory.  Turns out - and let me tell you I'm as shocked as you and find myself on completely unfamiliar ground here - I was right.

I shelled a handful of them, and coarsely chopped the nut meats.  I dropped them into a small pot of boiling water, and boiled them for about 3-5 minutes, at which point I drained them and tasted a few.  The bitter tannin flavor was still there, but already greatly diminished.  After repeating the process the bitterness was almost completely gone.  After a grand total of 6 to 10 minutes of boiling I had acorns - from the supposedly bitter red/black oak group - that are sweeter than many of the supposedly sweet acorns of the white oak group I have tried.  Here I'm thinking particularly of English/common oak, (Q. robur).

In "Use of Acorns for Food in California: Past, Present and Future," David Bainbridge gives the nutrient content of California black oak acorns as:

Water - 9.0%
Protein - 4.56%
Fat - 17.97%
Carbs - 55.48%

That will keep you going when hiking/mapping/preserving the splendor of the Sierra!

1 comment:

  1. Have you read Samuel Thayer's "Nature's Garden"? It has 50 pages on acorns. It also offers the best explanation that I have seen as to why red oak acorns are initially more bitter that white oak acorns. I won't go into the whole thing here, but he goes into great detail about how white oaks don't necessarily have less tannins, they are just locked up in hydrophobic pockets.

    Also, high levels of tannins aren't always a bad thing. If you are storing acorns by drying them, they will keep longer if they have higher levels.