Are Acorns Edible? And Other Acorn Facts

can you eat acorns?
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Are you in the wild again and wondering what you can snack on in case of an unwanted event?

Well, worry no more because as long as there are acorns, you will survive.

According to a study in Morocco, acorns are considered vital not just for animals but for humans as well.

In this study, it was reported that acorns contain biologically active compounds that can help humans survive and live healthily. 

So, if you are ready to know more about acorns, scroll down and learn about how they can change your life.

Acorns: Are They Safe to Eat?

Acorns

Are Acorns Edible: Safe Consumption of Acorns

Acorns, also known as oak nuts, are considered fruits that grow in different parts of the world.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, an acorn contains one seed only and this one seed is essential for oak regeneration.

Apart from this, oak nuts are also considered as wild food sources for many wildlife species (that is what we saw in the movie Ice Age!), and there are many varieties of oak trees where oak nuts come from. Some of these include:

  • Black oak
  • Northern red oak acorns
  • Scarlet oak
  • Burr oak
  • Chestnut oak
  • Emory oak
  • Pin oak
  • White oak acorns

Also from the US Department of Agriculture, it was said that even humans can help in producing more oak acorns, especially red oak acorns and white oaks.

Can Humans Eat Acorns, Too?

Aside from bumper crop season, even during the poorest crop years, acorns can be produced by humans.

But, can these people eat these crops after harvesting acorns?

According to a study in Memphis, acorns contain tannins, and apart from they taste bitter, these organic compounds may cause adverse health effects like liver damage and cancer.

In the same study, it was also reported that tannins can reduce the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients from the food a human eats.

So, does this mean a human cannot snack on these fruits? The answer is no.

In another study conducted in Portugal, it was reported that acorns are safe to be consumed by humans as long as the bitter tannins are leached out.

Take note that leaching is one of the processes to remove tannins and leaching acorns includes boiling the fruit or soaking it with water.

There are more processes of preparing acorns which will be discussed in the next section.

Furthermore, according to a study in California, people, most especially native Americans, have been consuming acorns thousands of years ago and they even include these fruits in their daily diet.

For this reason, acorns are certainly safe to be eaten! 

How to Safely Eat Acorns?

Since it was already published that acorns are safe to be eaten, one must learn the ways how to properly collect, prepare, and process acorns so that no adverse health reactions will ever be experienced.

So, acorns cannot be eaten raw, what are the processes to consume them?

In the section above, the leaching process was mentioned, and in this section, leaching will be elaborated along with the other processes and ways to eat acorns.

Leaching Acorns

It is easy to leach acorns because all you have to do is to boil them or soak them with either hot or cold water.

But, before leaching, you must also know the necessary steps prior, and the first step is called shelling.

Shelling of acorns, or opening up acorns, might require a lot of effort and patience, but this step is certainly needed especially when the acorns you have harvested are young.

Some people whack these shelled acorns so that the process of opening will be a lot faster and easier, and this is fine as well.

Also, you can try using a nut cracker. That would be more convenient right?

1) Hot Water Leaching

Next, the acorns would be placed in boiling water.

After some time (of boiling), the water will turn brown and all you have to do is to discard the water.

Then, boil again until the water remains clear.

You must be fast in replacing the water or else, the acorn meat will oxidize. We do not want this to happen!

The last step is drying the acorns to avoid rotting. This step is needed to make sure that the acorns are tannin-free.

Moreover, for this step, you can also dry the acorns by putting them in an oven or dehydrator.

2) Cold Water Leaching Method

If you do not want to do the hot-leaching process (boiling water), again and again, you can also try another method that you can refer to as cold-leaching.

Cold-leaching will not require you some fuel because, for this process, all you have to do is the following steps:

  • Gather acorns
  • Wash the acorns
  • Crack or whack them
  • Open the oak acorns and collect the meat
  • Place the meat in a bowl of water or jar
  • Let the acorn meat sit overnight

The next morning, or after 12 hours, you must drain the water and then pour a new one. Then, repeat the process.

After a few days or weeks, dry the acorn meats and grind them using the blender.

Although this method might take long, for about two weeks, and depending on how bitter the acorns are, you will be assured that the starch content of the dried fruit acorn pieces will not be denatured.

Also, take note that you must store dried flour at room temperature.

Additionally, this method is the best one if you want to use your acorn as your flour when you bake some deli foods.

The Benefits of Oak Nuts

In this section, we will be talking about the benefits one can get from eating acorns, whether they might be red oaks or white oaks.

According to a study published in the Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution, acorns are nutritious and they contain the following compounds:

  • Starch (55%)
  • Proteins (8.44%)
  • Fat (unsaturated fatty acids, 7.44%)
  • Tannic acid
  • Phenolic acids
  • Flavonoids
  • Phytosterols (β-sitosterol)
  • Tocopherols

Additionally, according to a study in Turkey, acorns are excellent sources of minerals like Potassium, Phosphorus, Calcium, and Magnesium.

This means that, compared to the cereals your little ones eat, acorns have the upper hand regarding nutritional value.

One report says that acorn oils’ fatty acid composition and physicochemical properties are similar to olive oil. And, with regards to the fat acorns oil contain, refer to the information below:

  • Unsaturated fatty acid (90%)
  • Oleic acid (65%)
  • Essential fatty acid
  • Linoleic acid (37%)
  • Α-linolenic (4.68%)

With all these components, let us take a look this time at the health benefits acorns can give.

1) Improves the gut health

Did you know that even acorns can help you improve your gut health?

It is established that there are bacteria in our gut and these are needed to keep our overall wellness.

However, there are times when these bacteria counts become imbalanced – more unhealthy (bad) bacteria over healthy (good) ones.

When there is an imbalance, this could lead to certain health issues like obesity and bowel diseases.

Fortunately, according to a study in Iran, acorns contain fibers that can increase your good or beneficial gut bacteria.

In another study published in the Journal of Health Education and Promotion, it was reported that acorns can be used to treat the following gastrointestinal issues:

  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Other digestive complaints

Take note that different acorns have different levels of compounds. Thus, the effect of the acorns will vary depending on the nutritional content of the acorn.

2) Acts as an antioxidant and anticancer

Aside from tocopherols, acorns contain different antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E, and, according to a study in China, these antioxidant compounds can prevent different types of cancers like prostate cancer.

Moreover, if a patient is suspected to be having benign tumors, acorns can prevent them from transforming into malignant ones.

Apart from this, according to a study in Tunisia, the antioxidant effects of acorns can also act as antiaging.

3) Supports the cardiovascular health

According to a study in Austria, the linolenic acid content of acorns can help patients with dyslipidemia make their triglycerides levels low, preventing the occurrence of coronary heart disease.

In another study in Croatia, it was reported that acorns can reduce the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and increase the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) of a patient.

Take note that LDL is also known as bad cholesterol while HDL is known as good cholesterol.

Moreover, in the same study, it was stated that aside from tannic acid, acorns contain compounds like gallic acid, ellagic acid, galloyl, and hexahydroxydiphenoyl derivatives which help in regulating the blood lipid levels.

4) Prevents and manages diabetes

According to a clinical trial in Spain, it was reported that acorns can also prevent and manage diabetes, especially diabetes mellitus type 2.

In this randomized clinical trial, it was said that the oleic acid content of acorn can improve the insulin resistance of patients with DM type 2.

Together with linoleic acid, these two unsaturated fatty acids can stimulate insulin secretion which is needed to prevent diabetes.

5) Manages burns and injuries

According to a study in the United Kingdom, aside from using acorn oil for cooking, it can also be used to manage skin burns and injuries.

Acorn oil works by reducing the inflammation in the skin, thus providing soothing effects and skin hydration.

Truly, acorn oils can be added to your daily skincare routine!

Are Raw Acorns from Oak Trees Dangerous to Eat?

On the other hand, consuming acorns may still promote some health dangers, but only when the acorns are not leached properly.

1) Dangerous raw tannins

Aside from bitter taste, raw tannins may cause you to be nauseated especially when you eat them on an empty stomach. 

It is given that before consuming acorns, you must leach them. But, what happens when you fail to do this step in processing acorns?

Tannins, when consumed in high amounts, may cause liver damage and esophageal cancer.

2) May cause allergic reactions

Another disadvantage of eating acorns is, of course, it might cause allergic reactions to its users.

Coming from oak tree nuts, acorns are considered one of the common food allergens globally.

If you look at it, according to a study in Australia, 1.2% of the population in the United States are allergic to nuts such as oak acorns.

So, what would happen if you get to eat acorns without knowing that you are allergic to them?

According to a study in the United Kingdom, if you are allergic to acorns, you may experience the following health dangers:

  • Itchy and scratchy throat
  • Watery eyes
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Difficulty of breathing

There is one documentary in the United States wherein a toddler who is allergic to nuts accidentally consumed a small little one, and that made her life in danger.

This means that, before eating acorns, make sure that you are not allergic to them as this can be fatal!

Ways to Eat Acorns: Oak Nut Recipes

So, if you are not allergic to oak nuts and you have leached acorns well, what are the foods or recipes you can prepare?

Aside from acorn flour, acorns can be made into different recipes. Take a look at the list of edible acorns recipes below:

1) Roasted acorns

Roasted acorns are considered savory snacks, especially when they are salted. Moreover, roasting them is probably the easiest way to make a fresh acorn meal.

To prepare this acorn meal or snack, after hot-leaching them, place them on a baking sheet and sprinkle some salt.

Toast them, then, for up to 20 minutes under high heat.

When their color becomes dark, cool them, and enjoy snacking on them!

2) Acorn brittle

For those with a sweet tooth who want to eat healthy sugars, this peanut brittle snack made of oak nuts might be the best and healthiest choice for you.

To prepare this acorn meal or recipe, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 100 grams of caster sugar
  • 100 grams of acorns (roasted)

After hot-leaching the acorns, melt the caster sugar in a saucepan or dry frying pan using low heat.

Then, shake it gently until the sugar melts and becomes dark in color.

Add the acorns to the melted caster sugar and stir daily. After, remove the mixture from the heated saucepan and cool the mixture 

Then, let it harden and cut them depending on your preference.

3) Acorn flour can make bread, pancakes, and cookies

Using your acorn flour, you can make healthy bread, pancakes, and cookies.

a) Acorn bread

For the bread, you must blend the acorn flour with wheat flour and gluten.

Next, add some oil and salt and bake the mixture at 350 degrees for half an hour.

c) Acorn pancakes

For the pancakes, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Egg (1)
  • Salad oil (1 tsp.)
  • Honey or sugar (1 tsp.) 
  • Leached and ground acorns (½ cup)
  • Cornmeal (½ cup)
  • Whole wheat or white flour (½ cup)
  • Double action baking powder (2 tsp.)
  • Salt (½ tsp.)
  • Cup milk (½)

Moreover, to prepare the pancake meal, first, you must break the egg and beat it until you make a batter.

Then, add all the other ingredients and mix well. You can add additional milk to achieve the consistency you want.

c) Acorn cookies

Lastly, to cook acorns in the form of cookies, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Acorn flour (dried flour, 3 cups)
  • Baking soda (½ tsp.)
  • Salt (½ tsp.)
  • Eggs (2)
  • Vanilla extract (½ tsp.)
  • White sugar (1 cup)
  • Butter (1 cup)
  • Brown sugar (1 cup)
  • Peanut butter (1 cup)

First, mix the acorn flour, baking soda, and salt.

Then, in a separate large bowl, mix the butter and peanut butter. Then, add the vanilla, white sugar, and brown sugar to this mixture.

After, add the eggs to the nut butter mixture and stir well.

Next, combine the two mixtures (flour and butter) and mix them until you achieve a smooth consistency.

Bake the final mixture at 375 degrees for 10 minutes and enjoy the serving!

4) Acorn coffee

Did you know that substitute acorns can be used as your morning coffee?

To make this drink, you must roast your leached acorn chunks at 400 degrees for about half an hour, but when you see that your acorns are no longer moist or contain no excess liquid, you can already remove the acorns from the oven.

Then add a tablespoon of the roasted acorn chunks to your favorite home cup and steep the mixture for 10 minutes.

You can also add some sugar depending on your preference.

Gathering Acorns

The easiest way to collect acorns is by choosing those that have already fallen from the quercus trees.

This simply means that all the acorns from whatever oak trees they come from can become edible for humans.

However, for this one, you must know what kind of oak tree the acorn came from, as different quercus trees produce acorns with different levels of tannins.

If you are not familiar with the different varieties of oak trees, you can also refer to the color of the acorns.

According to a study in India, green acorns are younger compared to tan or dark brown acorns. This means that the green acorns have higher tannin levels but are healthier when prepared properly.

Also, in the same study, it was reported that the green oak nuts are more likely uneaten by worms or insects called acorn weevils.

An acorn weevil may also lay eggs on green oak nuts.

For additional pieces of information, acorns fall down during September, October, and November more commonly in the Northern Hemisphere.

Final Thoughts

While oak acorns contain organic compounds that are toxic to health, properly processed acorns can make them generally safe to eat.

Comparing it to other foods like cereals, they are packed with healthy compounds and minerals that can improve the overall health of a person.

Although it may take some time and effort to prepare them, the benefits they give such as antiaging, anticancer, and chronic illness prevention are worth it.

However, there are still some downsides when it comes to consuming oak nuts and the most important one to be noted is it causes anaphylaxis in allergic people.

Lastly, there are many recipes for oak nuts but when they are unleached acorns, they might become toxic to humans because of their tannin content.