Wild Edibles: Jen Makes Acorn Bread (and so can you?)

I’m leading a workshop on edible wild plants tomorrow evening and I decided to take the opportunity to make some wild food. Besides the usual salad and stir-fried greens (pigweed and nettles in soy sauce) I decided to try to serve acorns in a wild fruit turnover with acorn flour. I boiled and mashed elderberries, rosehips and hawthorn berries, then froze them. Slightly sweet. Good enough.

I found some acorns from White Oak, the less bitter kind though unfortunately not native to here. These I shelled; a third or so had larvae taking advantage of this available food source and these acorns I discarded (threw them in the freezer to kill the grubs then in my compost). My fingers grew greasy like I was eating potato chips as I did the shelling, an indicator of this rich source of fat. The shelled acorns soaked in my rain barrel for a week. After this time they were still eye-wateringly bitter but I was able to force myself to swallow the bite (no such luck with acorns straight from the tree). I have read that it is better to soak after pounding them into flour, but that one can boil the flour in several changes of water. I ground the acorns with a food processor. It was necessary to add some water for them to grind smoothly. The result looked like porridge, and the water  obviously had soaked some of the virtue of the food. The paste grew darker as it stood in the air, an indicator of starch.

When I put the paste on the stove the gruel on the bottom burnt and stuck almost immediately. Stirring it constantly meant it was never going to boil so after a while I just put it through a rice-strainer. the liquid I was to discard had the colour and texture of peanut butter, and the odor of roasted tree nuts. There is some sort of polysaccaride or protein chain present because the mass was glutinous. A shame to waste but still too bitter to eat. It is off to fortify my compost! Finally I ran the contents of the strainer, now resembling flour somewhat, under cold water in the sink. Finally, bland enough to eat! Just a slight bitter aftertaste but quite palatable. A labourious process. I can see now why ancient peoples just let their pigs out in the woods to eat the acorns, then ate the pigs!

Jen Stotland

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