Monday, October 24, 2011

California live oak acorns: Sweet, aerodynamic

(Click to enlarge)

The acorn of the California live oak (Q. agrifolia) wins the award for best performance in a wind tunnel.  The thing is a beautiful, streamlined dart.

That also means it has a very high ratio of shell to nut meat, which in turn means you have to shell a lot of live oak acorns per pound of finished food.  And yet the Chumash Indians did shell them, by the ton.  Why did they bother?  Here are two good reasons:

1.  The California live oak acorns I have tried (and yes, I finally have been able to beat the squirrels, deer, turkeys, and bears to some of them) are some of the sweetest acorns I have tasted.  They would need little to no leaching, a time savings that would more than offset the added time needed for shelling.

2.  According to Dr. David Bainbridge's awesome paper, "Use of Acorns for Food in California: Past, Present, Future," the nutrient composition of Qagrifolia acorns looks like this:

Water - 9%
Protein - 6.26%
Fat - 16.75% (more than double that of most other California oaks, save California black oak and interior live oak)
Carbohydrate - 54.57%

Of course those silly, uneducated Indians thought that fat is actually a necessary nutrient.  We, of course know better.  We know that fat is evil, and our cravings for fat are merely an evolutionary mistake best sated by consuming kajillions of calories of low-fat foods.  That's why we are so thin with low levels of type II diabetes and they were so... hey, wait a minute!  Could it be that they knew something the people whose fortunes depend on cramming more and more corn-based products down our throats don't want us to know?  Can't be. 

Pass the chips.

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