These mystical towering giants hold a special place in the heart of humanity. We have relied on them as a source of fuel, timber, food, & spiritual inspiration for millennia. Myths about their life giving essence can be found from cultures as diverse as the ancient Greeks, the Celts, & the Sioux. It’s a tragedy that in today’s urban landscapes they are viewed as nuisance. I’ve heard many people complain about the acorns littering their yards, the leaves they have to rake, and the trunks they have to mow around.
The mighty oak is an instrumental part of any ecosystem that it may be found in. Countless species of mycorrhizal (symbiotic) fungi coexist with them. These fungi rely on the Oak tree to provide them with the sugars they need to survive. In return the oak tree benefits from the organic nutrients that the fungi release into the soil as they feed. Without oak trees we wouldn’t have chanterelles, truffles, maitake, porcini, & a host of other wild mushrooms.
The acorns that oak trees produce are an overlooked wildfood delicacy. Once the tannins are leached out they make a delicious addition to a chefs working array of flours & nuts. There are two main types of oaks, red & white. Red oaks, pictured here, will have pointy tips on their leaves & the meat inside of their acorns will be covered in tiny hairs. Red oaks are extremely tannic & require a longer leeching period to make them edible. White oaks will have rounded tips to their leaves and the nutmeat inside the acorn will lack hairs. Some varieties of white oak, such as the Chestnut Oak, are so mild in tannin content that they don’t need to be leached.
At Larder we use acorns roasted & also turn them into a flour that we use to make pasta, breads, & breading. We also love to pair them with our favorite mold, koji, and make miso. Acorn crusted squirrel is a delicious preparation that we are very proud of. The leaching process can take up to 14 days. The shelled acorns are kept in running water to flush the tannins out. Once the water runs clear & the nuts don’t dry your mouth out you can process them however you desire. I’ve developed a technique for leaching the acorns in a vacuum chamber that cuts the leaching time down to 30 minutes. Go now, enjoy Oak!
Jeremy, how does koji affect tannins? I understand it does some de-bittering, what about growing koji straight on acorns without leaching? Asking as a dude about to reforest a few acres.