Acorns: Are They Safe to Eat?
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Acorns: Are They Safe to Eat?

I was asked by a neighbor a few weeks ago about whether it was safe to eat acorns. My first reaction was to say “Yes, if you are a squirrel or chipmunk,” but I stopped myself from giving her a flip answer and told her that most people don’t eat acorns because they have a poisonous chemical in them called tannic acid.

I was asked by a neighbor a few weeks ago about whether it was safe to eat acorns. My first reaction was to say “Yes, if you are a squirrel or chipmunk,” but I stopped myself from giving her a flip answer and told her that most people don’t eat acorns because they have a poisonous chemical in them called tannic acid.

However, I told my neighbor lady about a family I used to know, when I was a teen, who were –essentially– homeless. They lived in the woods in a little lean-to some of the time and also in the county dump some of the time. The only money these people made was when they could find stuff to sell. They picked up cans and bottles to recycle. They found scrap metal to sell for money. With that money, they bought potatoes, charcoal for fires and other odds and ends. When acorns were in season, they processed and ate acorns. In fact, one time when I went to check up on them, (I knew their kids from school) they were having fried potatoes and boiled acorns on the side. They invited me to eat, and reluctantly, I did. I remember, at the time, I was more concerned if the dish I was eating on was clean, than if the food was unsafe. The acorns weren't bad. In fact, with a little salt on them, they were quite good. 

As I relived the day in my mind, I decided that this topic might make a good factoid article. According to Wisegeek.com it isn’t safe to eat acorns as they fall from the tree for the reason that I mentioned above. Very few animals make a steady diet of acorns because the tannic acid in them irritates their stomach and can cause great distress. However, acorns can be processed by blanching and cooking to remove the tannins, and subsequently making them safe to eat.

How to cook acorns

I wouldn’t advise eating acorns, but after reading several articles on the subject, I learned that they can be eaten if cooked properly. You must start with ripe acorns. Ripe acorns are those that have fallen from the tree all by themselves. Once you have collected the acorns you will need to shell them and then leech out the tannic acid; you do this by boiling them in a pot full of water over and over. Prior to shelling them, make sure they don’t have any holes or cracks in them. Make sure they are firm when you press on them. After you shell them, look them over again to make sure there are no grubs, bugs or worms in them.

How to cook acorns

Acorns need to be boiled repeatedly. Each boiling time should be 10 to 15 minutes. After boiling them for the amount of time, pour the water out and start with fresh water. Repeat this process 20 to 25 times. This boiling will remove the bitter tannic acid, and the nuts will be edible then.

It’s not a whole lot of work to collect acorns. All you need to do is stand around oak trees that is producing acorns and pick them up off the ground. The work comes with the shelling them and the repeated leeching with boiling water. You can eat them as is after boiling, or you can let them dry and grind them into flour. The friends that I mentioned above ate acorns and were happy to have them. They made many meals by using acorns in different ways.

There are other foods that I will be discussing in other articles that can’t be eaten in their raw state, and must be processed with leeching. Stay tuned!

Sources:

Personal experience

and

Wise Geek

Additional resources:

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