Saturday, November 14, 2015

Perils of Acorns

Drawing of acorns and dried pin oak leaf

Lana, the acorn hunter

You have to watch where you walk or you’ll trip on the acorns.  That’s the way it is in my apartment these days.  My little dog, Lana, secrets pin oak, Quercus palustris, acorns in her mouth while we are walking and then brings them in the apartment and hides them—sometimes under the pillows on the sofa, sometimes in the soft creases in her bed used by her for her toys, sometimes carefully placed in the patterns on the rugs so they go unnoticed until—oops—another acorn.  I worried about her desire to suck acorns, open them up, and sometimes eat the innards, but it turns out Lana is onto something.  We all know squirrels eat acorns.  We may know that many Native American tribes eat acorns, but how many of us know that Korean cuisine includes acorn jelly and that cultures all over the world have traditional ways to make acorn flour, jam, soup, and pudding?  Bill Logan’s book Oak: The Frame of Civilization tells us that the Tunisian word for oak is “meal-bearing” tree and that there are references to acorns as food in even ancient Greek literature.  Acorns actually contain healthy fats, proteins, and minerals, and some say they are good for controlling blood sugar levels.  But don’t try to eat them right off the street: they contain the bitter tasting and not so healthy tannin.  In order for us humans to eat acorns, we remove the tannins—they are water soluble so they can be leached out, but remember first you have to crack the shells and not by tripping on them in my living room. 

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