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  1. & New England Acorn Cooperative How to Gather Good Acorns (& Keep them Good) Walk & Workshop at D Acres The New England Acorn Cooperative’s mission is to provide education and resources for individuals and organizations interested in respectful, sustainable, acorn harvesting, processing and consumption, and to build long-term partnerships that are environmentally sound and economically fair between land-owners, preserved open spaces, wildlife, gatherers, processors and consumers of acorns.
  2. D Acres Acorn Walk Overview Why eat acorns? A (brief) history of acorn eating throughout recorded time… History of New England Forest. Today’s Oak Ecology & importance. Types of Oaks, how to tell & where to find them. What makes a good eating acorn? (What makes a bad acorn)… Best times, tools & techniques. Storage & processing.
  3. Why eat acorns? Acorns are edible and quite nutritious but they take a bit of processing before you can eat them. They are NOT edible raw. Local, Abundant and Free Nutritious & Delicious Low environmental impact. Gluten Free. Good exercise.
  4. Balanoculture Balanos is an Ancient Greek word for Acorns Balanoculture is defined as societies which built their diet and lifestyle around harvest and eating of acorns. Balanoculture is still found today in Korea, parts of Turkey and Greece. Last known culture in the Americas are Native tribes of California An abundance of charred shells in ancient fire pits in different parts of Europe have provided evidence that Acorns were once a popular food choice among many of the common nuts and seeds we still eat today. Modern intensive agriculture use of annual crops helped lead the movement away from Balanoculture. By the end of this century severe crises in agriculture world-wide may make a return to some modified form of balanoculture a viable alternative. – David Bainbridge (apparent coiner of the term)
  5. Other Historical and Present Day Oak Products/Uses  Inks and Dyes i.e.  Kermes Scale  Gall Ink  Standard ink 1400 years  Tannins for leather making  Ship Building  white Oak  Charcoal production  Pig Feed – Iberico Ham - $100+/lb  Wildlife food  Commercial food in Korea and Turkey  Whiskey and Wine barrels (Coopering)  Durable furniture & tool handles
  6. Oak Ecology Oaks are keystone species in a wide range of habitats from temperate deciduous forests to subtropical rainforest. Oak trees are important components of hardwood forests, known to grow in associations with and support up to 100 members of the plant, animal and insect kingdoms. In the USA, entire oak ecosystems have declined due to a combination of factors including:  Loss of fire management  Increased consumption of acorns by growing mammal populations,  Herbivory of saplings  Insects and diseases
  7. History of New England Forest & today’s Oak Ecology Pre-settlement: Before 1700 A.D. Large Hemlocks, Oaks, .  Colonial Farmers – Cleared rocks, rocks returned, Farmers went westward. Abandoned farms become forest again 1740-1860 A.D.  Pines clear- cut again 1930. Sprouts the oaks, birches, maple, cherry  Introduced pests starting late 1800’s
  8. Oak Types of New England Most Common (we will see today) White Oak: Quercus alba Swamp White Oak: Quercus bicolor Black Oak: Q. velutina Red Oak- Quercus rubra Other acorn species common to the New England Area: Bur Oak (Q. macrocarpa) Chestnut Oak (Q. prinus) Scarlet Oak (Q. coccinea) Willow Oak (Q. phellos) Pin Oak (Q. palustris)
  9. Oak Territory of New England (everywhere…)
  10. Best Locations for finding good Acorns • Urban / Suburban • Open areas (Lawns w/o litter, dogs droppings, chemicals, etc.). • Wild / Woods • Low lying elevations (near water is good). • Deep soil. • East to south facing slopes.
  11. Oak Species An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus (/ˈkwɜːrkəs/ Latin "oak tree") of the beech family, Faga ceae. There are approximately 600 species of oaks. The common name "oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus. The genus is native to the Northern Hemisphere and includes deciduous and evergreen species extending from cool temperate to tropical latitudes in the Americas, Asia, Europe, and North Africa. North America contains the largest number of oak species, with approximately 90 occurring in the United States, while Mexico has 160 species of which 109 are endemic. The second greatest center of oak diversity is China, which contains approximately 100 species. All acorns are edible (though some take more work than others)…
  12. Oak Pests and Diseases Sudden oak death (Phytophthora ramorum) is a water mould that can kill oaks within just a few weeks. Oak wilt, caused by the fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum (a fungus closely related to Dutch elm disease), is also a lethal disease of some oaks, particularly the red oaks (the white oaks can be infected but generally live longer). Other dangers include wood-boring beetles, as well as root rot in older trees which may not be apparent on the outside, often being discovered only when the trees come down in a strong gale. Oak apples are galls on oaks made by the gall wasp. The female kermes scale causes galls to grow on kermes oak. Oaks are used as food plants by the larvae of Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) species such as the gypsy moth, Lymantria dispar, which can defoliate oak and other broadleaved tree species in North America. A considerable number of galls are found on oak leaves, buds, flowers, roots, etc. Examples are oak artichoke gall, oak marble gall, oak apple gall, knopper gall, and spangle gall. A number of species of fungus cause powdery mildew on oak species.
  13. Threats to Acorn Growth Though there are many other pests and diseases threatening our Oaks today we will focus on three insects that are related to our quality of Acorn production in New England.  Weevils:  Curculio spp.  Gall Wasps  Cynipid Wasp, Gouty Oak Wasp, Horned Oak Gall  Gypsy Moth:
  14. Acorn Pests
  15. Identifying Oak Characteristics  Leaf  Bark  Acorn From
  16. Identifying Oak Characteristics  Leaf White Oak  Bark  Acorn Red Oak Scarlet Oak (from
  17. Acorn Anatomy (from
  18. “Good” Acorns | “Bad” Acorns GOOD Large (efficiency sake) Blemish free (see bad acorns) Brown (ripe, drier) Clean BAD Insect holes (weevils and grubs) Attached cap or bulging disks Cracks or dark spots Dying sprout (live sprout is OK) Mold or Old (last year’s) 1st DRAFT
  19. Red vs White Acorns Red Acorns White Acorns Mature in two years: ripe acorns borne on last year's growth; acornets on current years growth Mature in one year, ripe acorns borne on this year's growth; no acornets Cups scaly Cups bristly Germinate the spring after falling Usually germinate immediately after falling in autumn Shell interior with fuzzy lining Shell interior lacks fuzzy lining Cotyledons (acorn halves) rarely equal, often fused, typically meeting with curved or angled surfaces Cotyledons typically equal, not fused, meeting with smooth, flat surfaces Cotyledon surfaces typically have one or more deep grooves Cotyledon surfaces without deep grooves Testa adherent, fuzzy Testa usually flakes off easily Flesh more permeable to moisture; dries and moistens much more rapidly Flesh less permeable to moisture; dries and moistens much more slowly Softer when dried Harder when dried Fresh kernels contain less water, shrink less in drying Fresh kernels contain more water, shrink more in drying 3-20% tannin 3-30% tannin 15-30% oil 2-11% oil 3-8% protein 6-9% protein Fresh kernels cream, yellow, to bright orange Fresh kernels cream, sometimes purple Thayer, Samuel: Natures Garden 2009
  20. Acorn Gathering Tools  Bags, baskets, backpack.  Nut weasel.  Buckets, totes.  Sheets, towels, or racks for drying (tannin will stain). Acorn Gathering Forethought  Plan for weather, water, and rest.  Remember, you have to carry out what you collect.  You must also have dry secure storage space for the harvest you bring home (or it will go bad).
  21. Time to take a walk…
  22. Time & Techniques  Gathering Time is September through January  Techniques  Plucking, Shaking, Raking, Weaseling  Handpicking  Tarp or netting (& Thwacking)
  23. Best Acorn Gathering practices  Permission from land owner.  “Clean” area (chemical & pet waste free).  Light and quiet foot-print on the land.  Leaving a third of the harvest for wildlife, forest floor, and tree regeneration (exception for lawn and yard clean-ups).  No trace of your presence at the end of the day.
  24. Gathering Acorns  Tools  Backpack, bags, basket, bucket  Nut weasel, Rake
  25. Sorting and Floating Acorns Tools  Water Bucket(s)  Containers for separating good & bad acorns  Towels
  26. Drying Acorns
  27. A good place to stop ...Dry acorns in shell can be stored for up to a year if they are protected from moisture and pests…
  28. When you are ready to crack…
  29. Cracking Acorns  Tools  DaveBuilt cracker  Stone(s)  Containers to catch /sort nuts  Bucket of water (for sorting nuts from shell)  Containers for leaching  Acorns for cracking should be dry  Loose from shell (enough to separate easily)  Rattle stage for long term (will separate easily)  Demo DaveBuilt  Demo Stone(s)
  30. Cracking Acorns with “DaveBuilt” Cracker
  31. Separating Shells and Acorns  Pick through dry shells and acorns to separate OR  Drop freshly shelled acorns into bucket of clean water and scoop shells floating on top (acorns sink)
  32. Leaching Acorn Meal  Tools  Blender for pulverizing soaked nuts to meal  Ball jars or bowls for soaking meal  Water changes until sweet
  33. Draining Leached Acorn Meal  Tools  Colander  Linen  Technique  Pour leached meal into cloth lined colander and allow to drain in sink
  34. Drying Leached Acorn Meal  Tools  Oven and cookie sheet, or dehydrator  Technique  Squeeze excess water  spread meal on cookie sheets or dehydrator trays
  35. Acorn Meal Storage Out of shell, cold dry storage is best preservative for acorn nuts, acorn meal meal and acorn flour…. Almost time to taste test.. Lets review!
  36. D Acres Acorn Walk Review We discussed a (brief) history of acorn eating on all continents (except Oz). We reviewed the history of the New England Forest and today’s Oak Ecology & importance. We looked at several types of Oaks, how to ID them & where to likely find them. We explored what makes a good eating acorn? & What makes a bad acorn! We talked about the best times, tools & techniques for sustainable acorn harvesting. Finally, you now know to plan ahead of collecting time for clean dry storage space & processing time for the acorns you bring home…. Have a cookie, you earned it Thank You for Joining Us! The New England Acorn Cooperative’s mission is to provide education and resources for individuals and organizations interested in respectful, sustainable, acorn harvesting, processing and consumption, and to build long-term partnerships that are environmentally sound and economically fair between land-owners, preserved open spaces, wildlife, gatherers, processors and consumers of acorns. . For more information please visit