Today’s Tip: Survival Skills – Acorns
People can definitely eat acorns, and some do, but they typically require a certain amount of preparation in order to be palatable. The acorn is an extremely abundant nut, but most people rarely consider it as a potential source of food, probably because of the strong flavor. Some cuisines have relied on acorns as a staple for centuries, however, and survivalists often praise them for being easy to find and dense in calories. The acorn is particularly valued in the cuisines of some North American indigenous peoples and in Korea.
It isn’t the best idea to eat acorns straight off the ground, the way a chipmunk or squirrel might. Raw acorns contain high concentrations of tannic acid so their taste is bitter, and they can be toxic to humans if eaten in large quantities. Even the animals that eat acorns raw often find the tannins to be irritating; for this reason, few animals eat acorns exclusively, and some acorn-eaters allow the nuts to soak in water before they consume them. On the other hand, raw acorns can be stored for months without spoiling; this dramatically increases their value as a food resource.
I brought back a huge bag of acorns last month from the home where I grew up in Kansas, dropped from an oak tree that is probably well over a hundred years old, at least. This year the tree shed a huge amount of acorns, and Kyle and I picked up a bunch of them to bring back to Colorado to try to make flour of them. I thought the process seemed simple, until I ate a few of them, and then started reading about the process. As we were picking up all these acorns, my dad and stepmom Donna were thinking we were some kind of idiots, picking up the things that they slave to sweep up and throw away all fall. I dared Kyle to eat one, and then we both ate one. Then I got Donna to taste one. We all had the same reaction; they were bitter and awful. But we collected a large bag and brought them home any way, I wanted to learn about the acorn’s viability in a survival situation.
After some research, I learned that acorns need to be leached of their toxins before they are edible. This took quite a long time of soaking them in water, changing the water, soaking them some more, straining the water, then soaking them more, and so on for several iterations. By now you can probably guess what I am going to say about acorns as a source of survival food.
I may still go through with the experiment just to see if I can make flour out of the acorns, but the only good thing about acorns as a survival food is that they can last a very long time without spoiling. That will give you all the time you need for leaching out the toxins in the nuts, for scraping the shells off of them, then mashing them into flour while you are locked up in your cabin for the winter with nothing else to do.
But as a survival food, when you are in a dire situation and need something right now, acorns are not a good choice. They require way too much preparation to even be edible. Even the animals that have adapted to be able to eat them can only consume them in limited quantities. Deer, elk, bear, and other animals will consume large amounts of acorns at specific times of the year, and squirrels will harbor them in stashes for the winter to be eaten over a period of months. Each species has learned to adapt to their biological needs. But we humans are not like those other animals; too many acorns in the wrong state of fermentation could be lethal to us.
If you are really desperate, you can crush some acorns after removing the shells, boil them in water, discard the water, and repeat a few times. This may satisfy an urgent need for calories., but also expends a lot of energy and resources.
I wouldn’t say that acorns can’t be eaten or considered as a food resource, but only if you have the time to treat them before they can be eaten. If I were holed up in a cabin for the winter, then yes, I would process acorns for food. But if I’m in a survival situation where I need immediate calories, acorns would not be my choice.