Noticed lately that everything is super? Superheroes, super-trackers, superfoods? Well, put down the kale and trade in your current favorite superhero to the super-squirrel, 'cause acorns are the new superfood!
Realistically, no food could possibly meet the ideal of a superfood (a non-medical term for a nutrient-rich food considered especially beneficial for health and well-being), but nuts do have super qualities—full of fiber, fatty in a good way (omega-3!), and laced with vitamin E. Acorns in particular have been spotlighted recently because they are a common ecologically friendly and sustainable food source.
Nutritious & Abundant
"Basically all nuts are nutritionally healthy in moderation…what makes acorns different is their abundance in North American forests," says Wayne Askew, professor emeritus of the Division of Nutrition at University of Utah College of Health. "Acorns contain large amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, as well as the minerals calcium, phosphorus, and potassium, and the vitamin niacin." A former instructor of the Wilderness Nutrition class, Askew "used acorns as an example of a wild, edible food for foraging that would be a good energy and protein source and relatively safe (compared to mushrooms for example)."
In regards to using acorns in our daily diets, Askew considers them more of a novelty food source, but "historically very important as a staple in North American Indian diets." Askew's own particular harvest comes from a tree located just north of the Olympic bridge west of Wasatch looking toward the guesthouse.
How Do You Eat an Acorn?
But how, exactly, do you eat an acorn? As opposed to nuts you might find at the grocery store, "acorns contain tannins which are very bitter, astringent, and potentially irritating if eaten raw." Askrew recommends boiling your harvest or soaking ground acorns in several changes in water to remove these tannins, until the water no longer turns brown.
You can find several recipes using acorns online, but here are a couple that Askew sent from his wilderness class cookbook.
Credit: Wayne Askew
- Brown sugar
- Harvest acorns in the fall and store in the refrigerator until use.
- Remove shell and quarter acorn meat.
- Boil acorns for 5 min. to remove tannins (bitter taste).
- Saute in skillet with butter.
- Add brown sugar to taste and coat acorn slivers.
- Cook until brown sugar and butter start to thicken around acorn pieces.
- Cool and eat as dessert or snack.
Credit: Rebecca Gibbs
- 100 grams acorns, shelled and boiled to remove tannins (about ¾ cup)
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- ½ cup brown sugar
- Cinnamon, to taste
- Water as needed
- Chop boiled acorns and place in sauté pan with some butter.
- Toast acorns for two to three minutes, then add sugar, spices, and a splash of water.
- Cook acorns for 15-20 minutes adding water, butter, and sugar as needed to achieve caramel texture and flavor as preferred.
- Serve on shortbread or cookies or eat plain.
Servings: 4 (total amount quartered)
Find Acorns Near You
For more information about acorns in your neck of the woods, visit the Food and Agriculture Organization pages with information about traditional and contemporary uses of acorns. It's almost enough to make you reconsider your dedication to kale, don't you think?
*Nutrition info, candied acorns
Serving size 3.5 oz (100 g portion): 400 calories, 41 g carbohydrate, 6 g protein, 24 g fat, 0 g fiber
**Nutrition info, caramelized acorns
1 serving (1/4 of total above): 247 calories, 31 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 14 g fat, 0 g fiber