Eating Sprouted Acorns

Eating malted acorns

I have read that if you wait until spring to collect sprouting acorns, you never have to worry about worms in the nut meat !

The first week of March we traveled up to our future homestead to install yet another water storage tank.  While removing the forest duff where we were installing the tank, I noticed that most of the acorns still on the ground were starting to germinate!

Hmmm………  I remembered somewhere back in the recesses of my brain that when seeds germinate, the starches turn to sugar.  When a brewer makes beer, he sometimes uses malted barley (which is sprouted barley) because the grain would have a higher sugar content to turn into alcohol. So, it would make sense that if I gathered sprouted acorns in the spring, they would be sweeter than the whole, just dropped acorns in the fall, and it would be easier to get the remaining tannins out of the acorn.

eating sprouted acorns

Don’t worry, there were plenty left for the squirrels, deer and turkey!

Right?

I did some research and found that when sprouting occurs, chemical changes naturally take place so that some enzymes convert carbohydrates into simple sugars.  The complex proteins within the seed are converted into simple amino acids and most of the available fats turn into fatty acids.  This makes the nutrition within the seed more readily available for digestion.

I also found this:  “Germination caused a decrease in the protein, carbohydrate and starch; it increased sugar content, and had varied effects on the lipids contents of the dry samples. The anti-nutritional factor-tannin concentration was decreased.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1546053

Eating "Malted" AcornsI figured it wouldn’t hurt to try, so I gathered several pounds of the sprouting acorn nuts and brought them back to our current home in the Sacramento Valley.   I decided to use the boiling water method of tannin extraction, using larger pieces of the acorn.

The first thing I noticed was that it was much easier to remove the acorn meat from it’s shell!  The acorns shells had (usually) three splits at the small end, where the future root was protruding from the shell. Just a little bit of pressure on the acorn shell along one of these fissures with pliers would crack the acorn shell in half.  In fact, I was able to get a lot of the acorn nut meats out of the shell whole and intact – which was nearly impossible to do with newly fallen acorns.

"malting" acorns to eat

The testa (papery skin) is easily removed with a slotted spoon when using the boiling method to extract tannin.

I decided to try boiling the acorns for 15 minutes at a time, transferring back and forth to fresh boiling water, and see how many water changes it would take to get fairly clear water – which is supposed to indicate that most of the tannin had been boiled out.   Knowing that my oak is a species of red oak (I figured this out when I read that white oak acorns germinate as soon as they fall to the ground and red oaks wait until early spring) and the fact that red oak carries more tannin than white oak; I didn’t start tasting the acorns until after the fourth boiling.  Ick.  Then the fifth.  Nope.  Sixth.  Maybe, but no.  Seventh.  Much better.  I boiled for the eighth time, just to make sure.  Success.

One experiment with removing the tannin from acorns that I have been toying with is using pH testing strips.  Since Tannin is an acidic agent, I thought it would follow that the acorn nuts themselves would become less acidic as the tannin was leached out.  So I bought some pH test strips from an aquarium supply store to check out the acidity level of the water after each boil, to see if, indeed, the acid levels dropped.  I think it worked.  As you can see from the picture below, the color of the water from each successive boil turned from bright yellow to orange, indicating that the level of acidity had decreased.  I plan to experiment with this method using several techniques of leaching the acorns including the cold water leach method and the combination of cold water/hot water leach, along with the hot water method as above.  According to my palate – the acorns didn’t taste very palatable until the pH had reached about 7, which is neutral. The eighth boiling showed a red color on the test strips (sorry, that one isn’t in the picture), which apparently was an indication that the water was no longer acidic, so I assumed no longer had any tannin. 🙂

leaching tannin from sprouted acorns

The bright yellow color on the bottom of the test strip on the left showed that the water from the first boiling was very acidic, with the seventh boiling on the right being orange, which is neutral, indicating that as the tannin is leached from the acorns, they become less acidic!

After I had some leached acorns I had to decide what I would do with them next.  Since I had leached the tannin using the hot water method, I knew that they would lend themselves to a recipe that was not flour.  If you would like to make acorn flour, cold leaching is best for this because the oils have not been cooked out and the resulting cake, cookie or pastry would be less crumbly.  Baked goods made from flour using hot processed acorns tends to have no structure and fall apart.  So, I thought I would candy them using a recipe I have for candied walnuts!

Candied Acorn Nuts

Yes, I know, taking a natural good-for-you nut and coating it with sugar is counter-intuitive, but it sure is good!  🙂

These were pretty good!  But – next time I won’t add so much cinnamon.  You see, many plants contain tannin naturally, the most famous being grapes!  The tannin in the grapes added to the tannin in the oak barrels is what gives red wine it’s astringent, tannin flavor.  Another food stuff that includes tannin is cinnamon.  When I ate an acorn after the eighth boil, I did not taste any tannin.  In fact, the acorn was almost sweet.  However, after roasting the acorn, I could taste just a hint of tannin. I knew that roasting acorns will tend to bring out any tannin flavor left in the acorn, which is why I boiled once more, after I no longer tasted tannin.  Then, after they were candied, even through the sweet of the sugar, I could taste a stronger tannin flavor – presumably because of the cinnamon.

Will you have to boil your acorns eight times?  I don’t know.  Each oak tree is different.  Some people only have to boil once.  You never know until you try!

Will I make candied acorns again?  You betcha – just not with so much cinnamon.   In fact, I’m thinking of making some caramel acorn and popcorn next!  Anybody want some?

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35 thoughts on “Eating Sprouted Acorns

  1. Whoa! Candied Acorns? Yum! You had me as soon as you said candied. hehehe I was getting kind of grossed out, but I’m glad I read on. Thanks for sharing, but if you really want to share sign up on my recipe linky today and share with all my readers. Thanks much & have a great weekend. I sure hope I can do this. It looks so yummy, but I’m going to try. Woo Hoo

    • They are pretty yummy! But, as I stated, the cinnamon adds back a bit more of the tannin taste than I would prefer, but then again, my acorns are pretty “tanniny” anyway. Thanks for the invite to your recipe linky – I’ll be there!

    • It might be a fun activity to have the kids gather them and help get the nut meats out – then you and your mum can candy them! I hope your mum’s oak tree doesn’t have too much tannin. It takes a bit of experimenting to figure out how long to leach the acorns, but this can also be a learning experience for the kids! Let me know if you try this and what you think.

    • Good evening, Lydia – so nice for you to stop by! I have been having a lot of fun experimenting with acorns. I think my next couple of projects will be acorn pie (think pecan pie but with acorns) and caramel popcorn with roasted acorns! I know these are naughty desserts (tons of sugar) but I think it’s important to explore every avenue when experimenting with new food! 😉 That’s my excuse. I will get back to wholesome cooking, I promise!

  2. Hello Vickie
    thanks for this very interesting Beitrag.Wir can learn and imitate it.
    I also re-made ​​new things.

    Greetings from Oldenburg, Germany
    Uwe

    • Thanks, Uwe – Greetings from California! I skipped over to your blog and saw the new cat litter box you made – it’s beautiful and very useful! Thanks for visiting and for your kind comments! Say high to Angelika for me!

  3. Great posts and really good information. Love the way you did your experiment and proved the value of sprouts. Thanks for sharing on Real Food Fridays Blog Hop. Have a wonderful healthy day!

    • Hehehe – I love experimenting in the kitchen and my husband doesn’t mind being the guinea pig! The best part is that I haven’t killed anybody yet. 🙂 Since I am not a fan of the taste of tannin (that’s why I don’t like very many red wines), I thought it would be a great way to figure out a way to determine if the tannin was out of the acorns – instead of the old tried and true method of tasting! I think I found it! Hooray – no more puckering and spitting! 🙂

    • A year ago I didn’t have any idea about sprouting acorns either – but the more research I have been doing, the more I learn about gathering, processing, cooking and eating acorns!

    • Hello, Celeste! Glad to meet you! Finding ways to prepare acorns, which are abundant up on our future homestead, has been a passion of mine lately. I hope your visit on my blog was fun and informational!

  4. Wow, what a lot of work you went to on this……it is appreciated, though. I, too, do many experiments with things God has made….and find new ways to use things….so nice to find your information already done for me. 🙂 Thank you for posting this. I will be following your blog on my newsfeed now.

    • So glad to have you along! It really isn’t work, though, when you are having fun! It’s amazing what I have discovered by jumping in with both feet and trying to figure out what makes the acorn tick! See you again soon!

    • I just had to try it, don’t ya know! I figured that walnuts have lots of tannin but they taste good sugared, so one thought lead to the other – you know how that goes!

  5. This is fascinating, I am going to pin this. I have successfully leached tannins from unsprouted red oak acorns by boiling for about 15 mins with only 6 water changes. The difference is that I chopped up the meats, which facilitates leaching. Found this post via HomeAcre Hop.

    • I also chop up the meats when I am cold water leaching, which I have found to be the best and easiest process to leach acorns for flour. This last experiment was just to see if the acidity level of the acorn would drop as the tannin level dropped, and to see if I could get fairly large pieces of the acorns to release enough tannin to be edible. I still have a lot of experimenting to do, but I know that if push came to shove and there were few food sources available, I could easily eat acorns as a protein, mineral and calorie source. My main goal is to figure out recipes using acorn flour in conjunction with almond and wheat flour. No one in my family is gluten intolerant. However to become more self-sufficient, I want to develop recipes for breads, cakes, muffins, noodles, etc., with a mix of these three flours. We are planning to grow a small patch of wheat, and along with our almond trees and the acorn, we won’t have to buy flour again! Of course, that’s the plan……… Thanks for pinning!

  6. We live near where the Chumash Indians lived and acorns were a staple in their diet. I have never tried anything like what you did. Very cool. Thanks for sharing at My Favorite Things Party Theresa @DearCreatives

    • Oh – you must be in the Southern California Coastal section! Cool! Two of my boys got their degrees from Cal Poly, so I know a little bit about that region. I believe most of the oaks near the coastal areas are white oaks, so they should be fairly sweet to begin with, and will easily leach their tannin! You should try it some day!

    • Yes! Please give it a try and then let me know what your opinion is. I know that every oak tree produces acorns with different levels of tannin, so yours may have lower levels than mine, which would make your leaching process much easier and shorter. Good luck!

    • Thank you, Kathy. Actually, a bit of sweetness tends to offset the twinge of bitterness of tannin in the acorns, so the candied acorns made sense!

  7. Thanks so much for sharing this on Green Thumb Thursday and we hope you’ll visit tomorrow, too. This post was simply fascinating and it was chosen as one of our features – please feel free to grab a button and display it on your sidebar or post!

  8. As a child growing up after World War II I used to hear about acorn ‘coffee’ during rationing I wonder if you have made some..there are quite a few websites that include instructions and it looks really easy..I’ll fill my pockets next time I’m out for a walk! Trees are so very generous aren’t they. I’m surrounded by Hazel and Beech trees and of course the magical Sweet Chestnut…hmmm yum Christmas!!

    • Oh Lynne – you are so fortunate to be surrounded by Chestnut trees and Hazel nut trees – some of my favorite nuts! I tried making the acorn coffee, but I have to tell it to you truthfully… it’s nasty. At least mine was. Maybe I have the wrong type of acorn for that. I hope you have better luck! Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment today – I really appreciate it!

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