Wild harvest at its noisiest
This year was the big “mast year” for my oak trees. For two months came a delicate rain of baby acorns followed by a month of cacophonous crashing. Ah the joys of the metal roof on the chalet.
Still, the plethora of acorns meant a huge harvest. Mostly gathered by chipmunks, squirrels (red, black, grey, flying) and odd other creatures that went bump in the night. Another harvester took note, me: here is my first bowl of harvested, shelled, roasted acorns. Read on to learn more about harvesting and preparing your acorn feast.
First, a small story regarding my oak trees. They are over 60 years old. Not that old by oak tree standards. I have two kinds. One is burr oak. Very similar to white oak. And, to my surprise, swamp oak. Which I hadn’t heard of previous to a few weeks ago.
I turned one of the leaves of my oak tree over and noticed it was quite light underneath. At first I thought, is this some kind of illness or consequence of the “mast year?”
But nope, one quick google later, it’s a fairly rare type of oak, quercus bicolour. Noteable for it’s two tone leaves. Neat.
The “mast year” is the year in the 2 to 5 year oak tree cycle where it produces masses of acorns. And what a fall of nuts we had.
So, in the spirit of wild harvest, I decided to try to make an acorn flour. Here’s my story:
Learning from my betters
First I picked up acorns off the ground and then dried them on some tin roofing pieces in the sun. I discovered that the chipmunk quickly found my pile. But would leave many of the acorns behind untouched.
Internet research pointed to worms in the nut. And sure enough. I found if I made a pile of acorns that floated when dropped in a barrel of water. The chipmunk ignored them. The pile of acorns that sank, quickly disappeared. Ah ha, I have a method of testing for quality acorns, sink or swim, that doesn’t involve losing the harvest to my friendly neighborhood chipmunk.
Next I started pulling the husks off the nut. At first I went all around the husk until the nut popped free. Then I noticed that the chipmunk would do just one side. Sure enough, I did the one side and the nut popped free. What a time saver.
Who’s a wild harvest guru? Not me.
Who’s a big nut?
Okay, that’s me. Well the swamp oak acorn turns out to be a pretty fair size. Excellent. I quickly focus my harvesting attention on the swamp oak and leave the burr oak for the critters.
I put screening on the ground to make gathering the nuts falling from the tree easier. The chipmunk likes my innovation and we have many morning dashes to the screens trying to get there first. He chatters at me if I win. I grouse if I’m beaten. It’s fun.
The next step is to roast the acorn nut. This makes shelling easier. I tried heating in the sun. However I had to remember to watch for raiding rodents. So I ended up putting the acorns on a pizza plate and heating slowly in the bbq. Worked a treat.
Then came the shelling. It wasn’t too bad. A nut crusher would have worked better and I’ve got my eyes open for one when next I head to a flea market.
Grinding to the finish
Then you rough grind or crush. Acorns can be a bit bitter. This is another reason I gathered swamp oak nuts over burr. The swamp oak is known for it’s low tannin content. To remove the bitter tannins you soak in water. Let sit. Drain, repeat. It didn’t take that long, but then I wasn’t timing anything either.
Then dry the crushed soaked nut and grind into flour. I don’t have a picture of this. But I still have nuts to shell and process. So I will share those later.
I will note: dry, grind and refrigerate. No, don’t ask, I won’t say why.
More chipmunk techniques?
I would like to know how the chipmunk processes his nuts. I imagine he has some technique to keep them fresh and wholesome through the winter. Ah well. Something to explore another day.
Hope you enjoyed my nutty adventure. Please feel free to comment.