How to Eat Like a Squirrel - #TRYSOMETHINGNEW
I must be nuttier than squirrel poop to have tried this...
One of the oak trees living in my yard
Vencolini recently challenged FoodTribers to try something new. I've been alive for over six decades, and wasn't sure I could think of something that I hadn't yet tried (at least that I'd be willing to try!), but I've always been curious about acorns. Native Americans ate them, and I began to wonder if acorns might be a viable food source if the world ever goes kablooie. I knew that they are full of tannins, so I proceeded to do a bit of research to figure out how to turn them into something palatable. After digging around on the web for a bit, I decided to use this site as my guide, https://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/survivalist/survival-skills-5-ways-eat-acorns/ , by Tim MacWelch.
Coins will be awarded for the most sincere reaction, captured on camera.
Hunting and Gathering
First I had to go outside and forage for some acorns. That wasn't too difficult because our property hosts several nice, old oak trees (along with numerous youngsters). I didn't take many, though. A lot of critters depend on acorns for food, and I didn't want to deprive them of their sustenance. I already have plenty of other things to eat in my pantry.
My meager harvest
I ran into my first problem as I began to sort and wash the acorns. Two of them had neat little holes drilled into their sides, obviously the work of some sort of insect (more on this coming up). I put the holey acorns into the compost bin and proceeded to use a knife to remove the shells from the rest of them. That's when my next problem cropped up.
Uh, oh... evidence of acorn weevil activity
Mama Weevil prepares to do her worst - photo by Elke Freese, Wikipedia
The Dreaded Acorn Weevil
Every spring, mother acorn weevils drill a small hole though the shells of developing acorns and lay eggs within. The hole eventually heals over, offering complete protection for the developing larvae. In autumn, the acorns fall, and the larvae drill their way out and burrow into the ground, where they continue their development. When winter has passed, brand new adult acorn weevils emerge to begin the cycle anew. Fascinating, but disgusting to someone who wants to eat the acorns! Lots of grubby nuts, full of weevil frass (aka bug poop) ended up in the reject pile, thence to the compost heap. 🤢
Squirrels do not tend to cache grub-filled acorns, since they don't store well, which is the reason that most of my tiny harvest was infected by baby weevils. Many critters, including squirrels, eat the grubs as a supplementary protein source.
This particular critter does not care to eat grubs, however, so into the compost heap they went. I later learned that I should have placed all my acorns into a bowl of water: Undamaged acorns sink, while weevil infected ones float. If there is a next time (or if a Zombie Apocalypse reduces me to foraging for sustenance), I will float my acorns before processing them...
Preparing the acorns for roasting
My remaining acorns were ready to process at this point. The acorns must now be soaked to remove the tannins before they would be good to eat. According to Mr. MacWelch, and contrary to commonly administered advice, one should not boil the nuts to speed up the leaching process - apparently boiling them would only force the tannins deeper within the nutmeats. A very long soak in warm to hot water was necessary to render the acorn meats fit for consumption by humans. I changed the water every few hours. I continued to soak the nutmeats until a tiny nibble did not taste too bitter, about 72 hours..
The only edible portion of my harvest, ready to soak
Soaking acorn meats - note how the water is darkening.
Ready to eat!
I only had a very small amount of acorn meats to work with, so I decided to simply roast them, following the instructions on Mr. MacWelch's web site (see recipe below). Unfortunately, the results were less than appetizing. I guess I should have soaked them for a few more days, because the nutmeats were extremely astringent and bitter. Okay if I was very desperate, but otherwise, grist for the compost pile. 😥 You can see my reaction in the cringeworthy video, also below...
The roasted acorns
The taste test... 🤢
- Soak acorns in water. Discard any that float.
- Use a knife to remove shells from remaining acorns. Break nutmeats up into small, pea-sized pieces.
- Soak nutmeats in warm to hot water to remove tannins. The water should become the color of weak tea. Change water every few hours. Continue process until the nuts taste sweeter (sample a bit every once in a while). It will take several days for the tannins to leach out.
- Once you deem the acorns to be ready, drain and dry the nutmeats. Spread them on a oiled pan, and bake at 375° for 15 minutes.
Note: Soaking times may vary, you may need less or more time to render your acorns palatable.
Tim MacWelch, as prepared by Jeannine L