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Best Flours In Cooking - Uses Of Acorn Flour In America and Korea

Updated on January 24, 2013

The National Zoo - A Myth Buster

Growing up in the 1950s - 1970s, my generation of kids was told at home and in school that acorns are poisonous and cannot be eaten. "Rhubarb was entirely poisonous, all mushrooms were poisonous, and the kiwi (bird) was extinct."

The first myth to evaporate was the bird myth as I walked into the bird house at the National Zoo as an adult and found a habitat of live kiwis. The same year, I enjoyed rhubarb pie, mushrooms on pizza, and forgot about acorns altogether. The National Zoo is a wonder, not only for its exhibits and educational programs, but also for the facts that admission is free, it is well maintained, and it breaks apart certain falsehoods. I began questioning other myths.

In college studies of indigenous peoples is the setting in which I learned that acorns make good flour. I abhor tales and beliefs that spread incorrect information that scares people into avoiding good foods. Acorn flour is fine to eat and makes a good dough.

Learn to think for your self. -- Malcolm X

That's my motto today.

Baskets for Mush and Breads

Photo from the National Archives and Records Administration.
Photo from the National Archives and Records Administration.

Native American Acorn Culture

I understood in school that Native Americans were a bit different from "us" (not yet realizing I have that heritage), but I did not believe that they could eat poison and live. In fourth grade we heard about "Indians" eating acorns with their friends, the squirrels - in fact, they ate squirrels as well, so they "had" to be different from us. K-5 science and history left something to be desired in those days. I forgot about it all for the time being and sang Beautiful Ohio with the rest of the class.

In reality, the Indigenous Peoples that arrived in California from around 12,000 - 15,000 years ago were met by forests containing several varieties of oak trees, each variety producing a unique type of acorn. Evidence exists for 10 different varieties of acorn eaten in what is now California by these ingidenous groups. The people learned to grind acorns into meals and to make acorn mush and breads from these meals. The meals were often ground on a community slab of stone in which indentations formed the bottoms of mortars to be used by several in a village at one time (see photo to the right).

The people found that by drying acorns in the sun in the autumn, they could prevent mold and decay and could store acorns for later use for up to 2 years. The people built grain storage bins in the manner of tall baskets woven with sticks and fibers, all of which they set above the ground on platforms to keep them dry. Using these storage places, the Native Americans stored 2 or 3 barrels' worth of acorns at a time.

Acorn Grinding Site In a Village

Photo from the National Archives and Records Administration.
Photo from the National Archives and Records Administration.

Acorn Nation

Acorns were (and are) eaten as a staple food across the country wherever Native Americans discovered them. The anthropological history of Native American and Hispanic peoples in California is particularly rich and well documented and provides substantial information about food resources and in particular, acorns.

The West Coast diet was high in protein, including many types of fish, at least 10 varieties of acorns, game animals, a range of berries, insects used as food, plants, roots, and seeds. Food was plentiful and indigenous nations and bands traded foodstuffs among themselves.

Whatever Native Americans took form nature, they used completely, without waste. They shook trees for acorns and pine nuts to fall down to the people. Today, pine nuts are an expensive ingredient to purchase and use in cooking. To the Indians of old, they were free. Favorite acorns, those most in evidence of being consumed, include the black, blue, tanbark, and valley oaks’ nuts.


Hero Nut

If cilantro is my Herb Hero, then the acorn in one of my Nut Heroes.

Acorns contain up to 18% or more of fat for evergy, 6% protein, and 68% carbohydrate. They are also a good source of Vitamins A, C and amino acids. The tannic acid in many acorns is too bitter to consume and is first leeched out.

The people crack acorns, pull the kernels out of the thin skin surrounding them, grind them to flour and sift them in a basket (see photo at right). Next, workers pour water over the ground nuts and drain them several times. Then the acorn meal can be used for mush, soup, or acorn bread.

Acorn flour can be purchased at health food stores and specialty shops, in stalls at some Native American Pow Wows, in Korean markets, and online.


Sweet Dough and Noodles

Acorn dough is a mixture only of acorn meal and some water for a thick dough. Early Native Americans cooked their acorn bread in the manner that Aboriginals in the Australian Outback did: Before sunset, they dug cooking pits in the ground or a hillside, lined them with green leaves (for steaming, rather than drying), placed heated smoothed stones onto them, and covered them with additional green leaves. They laid flattened loaves of acorn bread on top of the warming leaves, covered the bread with more green leaves and another layer of heated stones, and covered the pit with earth. At sunrise, a sweet, heavy, nutty tasting bread was done. Today, acorn meal bread can be either steamed along the line of Chinese dumplings, or baked.

The Koreans also have a tradition of acorn flour in their kitchens, making delicious acorn noodles and acorn jelly salad.


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 4 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I see acorn flours in some of our speciality stores these days.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Best Flours In Cooking - Uses Of Acorn Flour In America and Korea awesome hub on acorns at the moment I ma picking acorns but from our Black Oak tree. Very interesting and so much to know about acorns.

    • kennynext profile image

      kennynext 7 years ago from Everywhere

      A very nutty article and well wrote. There are a lot of foods we can eat that we do not beacause of the way our society is.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      You guys are funny! :) I like Scrat, too.

    • RGNestle profile image

      RGNestle 7 years ago from Seattle

      I hate it when people teach me stuff! Doesn't it mean I have to forget something I learned earlier since there's only so much room in my brain? What? That's a myth too? Whew! LoL

      Love the Hub!

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 7 years ago from The English Midlands

      Well, you learn something new every day! :)

      I was never told that rhubarb was entirely poisonous, or that all mushrooms were poisonous, or that the kiwi was extinct ~ but I didn't know that acorns were edible or that they could be used for making bread.

      Very interesting!

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 7 years ago

      I had no idea about the Acorn - but it did remind if of Scrat from Ice Age - nice hub Patty.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      The kindly Miwoks got hardtack or something - lol. Tannic acid surely is not good for people!

      Rhubarb - says that the leaves contain oxalic acid, which is poisonous to humans, but which has been used in folk medicine. So we can eat the portions that look like red celery, but it's best to cook them because they still have a little oxalic acid. Kids would be more sentive than adults (like with jimson weed on which tomatoes can grow).

      Thanks for all the comments.

    • profile image

      EnLydia Listener 7 years ago

      Hi patty, great article...I plan to try out acorns is a resource that is for the most part untapped, except by the squirrels...but the nutritional element is excellent as you pointed out.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Interesting I have never heard of that before. By the way parts of the rhubarb plant are poisonous, aren't they?

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country

      The native tribes in my local area used acorn as their main diet staple. The washing and rinsing, after grinding, helps to remove the strong bitter tannin or tannic acid-- (which is probably the source of the poison stories).

      I remember a story of some early California prospectors who encountered some Miwoks and as a gesture of friendship, exchanged some bread. The miners had hard chunks of dry white bread and the Indians had fresh acorn bread. They all knew that the miners got the better part of the deal, even though the natives were polite in accepting their "gift".

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Gosh, I learned something there. Thank you, Patty, that was interesting.