Paul Tappenden shows us what’s seasonally wild and edible in our area
Recently I wrote about acorn flour. Since then several people have asked me how I go about turning acorns into flour, and this time of year is ideal for gathering acorns.
The most challenging part of processing acorns is the shelling. It can be monotonous and time consuming, so over the years I have looked for more efficient methods of removing the nutmeats. In the early days, when I only gathered small amounts of acorns, I was content to use a nutcracker or pliers. As acorn shells tend to be rather elastic, they don’t crack easily, and when they do they can be hard to peel (unless they have been partially dried). However, pliers tend to end up squishing the nut meat. I tried squeezing them from the ends, but they are harder to grasp between the jaws of the pliers.
Next, I tried hitting the tip of the acorn with a hammer, but it really wasn’t that much quicker, and a lot more risky, unless one makes a jig to hold the nuts (hands-free).
When I started gathering acorns in large quantities, those methods were way too time consuming, and messy, so I explored a bulk method, by putting bunches of acorns into a canvas tote bag, then thumping on it with the end of a length of 4 x 4′ fence post. But, of course, it was very messy, took several tries to break them all, and it really wasn’t any quicker in the end.
Then a friend told me that he simply cut them with a knife and peeled off the shells, so I gave it a try. At first I halved them sideways, but it was hard to coax the nut out, even using a pick. So I tried cutting them lengthwise. This way, I was able to pry out the nut pieces with ease. So, this has now become my chosen method – to date. I always drop the shelled nut meats immediately into water, to stop them from oxidizing (turning brown).
I’ve also found that putting the nuts onto a board with a V-shaped groove in it holds them in place and makes cutting easier. Anyway, gotta go. Lots of acorns to shell.
Now that we’ve learned how to properly remove the shell from an acorn, Paul’s previous article on making acorn flour and yummy treats with that flour will come in handy. Gathering acorns now, while they’re abundantly strewn across the forest floor, will provide plenty of shelling and grinding work for barren winter months.
Paul Tappenden is the Rockland Forager. He leads identification walks once a month in our area. See regularly updated blogs, videos, events, and what he and other foragers, herbalists, and naturalists are up to at www.suburbanforagers.com.