Sweet Southwestern Acorns
While it’s been a pretty lousy fruit year here, no Apples, Peaches, Plums and just a few Pears, it has been a great year for Acorns. As with Pine nuts, the trees only produce a good crop every few years, so we’re exceptionally excited whenever we see the little Evergreen and the larger Gambel Oaks weighed down with yummy round nuts. So far this year, we’ve gathered a few gallons of unshelled Acorns, when shelled this won’t amount to that much, but it’s a great start. We’ll be going up the arroyo soon to check out the bounty there (just as soon as we get the Grapes and Grape leaves).
Some places have bitter Acorns that need to be boiled or leached in running water. This seems to vary with variety so check out your local species for general edibility. Ours are naturally sweet and super yummy. It’s important to process Acorns quickly though or little critters that may have bored into the shell will take over and eat your nuts for you. We spread ours, still in the shell, on a baking pan and roast them slowly either in the wood stove or over an open fire. When thoroughly brown (but not burnt), remove from the oven and let them cool.
Later, take a mortar and pestle and crack open small batches of the crispy outer shell and save out the tasty morsels within. This is time consuming but a great back porch, herb talkin’, tea drinkin’ activity for a small group of people. Once you’ve shelled your acorns, you can go ahead and toast them up with butter in a cast iron pan and eat them in all kinds of things (cookies, cakes, soups, anything you can imagine putting a nut in), they’re one of the nicest flavored nuts ever to be evolved on a tree, in my humble opinion. Try them in spice cookies, or diced up in yogurt or minced on a nice piece of wild meat like broiled beaver.
If, however you’d like to save them for later, you have to make sure they’re plenty dried out so as not to rot, so you may have to dry roast them a bit longer once they’re out of the shell before storing them in jars. Or you could just freeze them, which is what I’d do if I had a freezer.
Tip: You can use green acorns just as well as brown as long as they’re fully formed.