The acorns are wild edible fruits , consumed for many years by our ancestors. As with other wild plants , the consumption of these fruits was considered food for the poor . At present, the consumption of acorns is little known, and they are practically only used to feed animals.
What are acorns?
Acorns are the fruits ( nuclei ) that produce different species of trees of the genus Quercus ssp. These include holm oaks ( Quercus ilex L.), holm oak ( Quercus ilex L. ssp. Rotundifolia ) and oak ( Quercus robur L.).
History of acorn consumption
Sweet acorns have been the basis of the diet of the first hunter-gatherer peoples, both in Europe and America .
In Europe, the acorns of the oak ( Quercus ilex ) were consumed , while in America, the sweet acorns of the white oak ( Quercus alba ) were collected by the first settlers to eat them raw or toasted , as if they were chestnuts . These peoples learned to boil them with different waters to eliminate the bitterness that these fruits have (due to their high tannin content) and make them more edible. This process is a way of debittering the acorns , that is, reducing their tannin content to make them edible or more digestive.
Other uses of acorn in the kitchen
Acorns are also used to make acorn flour in a traditional way , which is used to make bread, or with which soups can be prepared, together with other edible wild plants .
For many years, especially for farmers, the infusion of roasted acorns has been a substitute for coffee .
What properties do acorns have?
The sweet acorns are energy and nutrient , which provides primarily carbohydrates (40%), fat (24%, mainly monounsaturated ), protein (6%) and fiber. Therefore, it could be said that acorns have a nutritional value between chestnuts and almonds : they provide energy, mainly in the form of carbohydrates, like chestnuts, but they are higher in fat than chestnuts .
Among the vitamins and minerals they contain, they are rich in B vitamins (except B12 ), they contain a lot of phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium. They have an iron content similar to chestnuts (1mg of iron per 100g).
Acorns and skin
There are several ways that acorns are used to protect the skin, including as an astringent agent, but this requires that the tannins be leached directly from the acorns. Tannin water can be applied topically to the skin to soothe burns and rashes, to speed up the healing of cuts and wounds, and to reduce inflammation or burns. This topical application of nutrient-rich water can also be used to treat pain topically, such as post-workout or when an injury appears.
Acorns and digestion
Like most nuts, acorns have a significant amount of fiber, making them ideal for improving digestive health. Fiber helps regulate bowel movements and eliminate both constipation and diarrhea; This is ideal for people suffering from irregular bowel movements, cramps, bloating, and other gastrointestinal disorders.
Acorns and diabetes
One of the most important benefits of acorns is their ability to regulate sugar levels in the body, thus preventing the dangerous spikes and crashes in glucose that can lead to diabetes, or endanger those already suffering from it. condition. The fiber content and relatively complex carbohydrates found in acorns are the reason for this regulatory benefit.
Acorns harvest time
Acorns are harvested in the autumn , between September and November. It is distinguished when they are ripe because they have a brown color, thickened size, and because they easily detach from their cap (hull), which is why many of them are already on the ground.
Acorns and the heart
Many nuts are high in fat, although acorns can be a good alternative, because there are about five times as much unsaturated fat as saturated fat in these nuts (on average), which also improves overall cholesterol balance and prevents obesity, atherosclerosis and other dangerous conditions that threaten the heart as a result of eating foods with exclusively saturated fat.
Acorns raise energy levels
There is a high level of complex carbohydrates found in acorns, which provide longer lasting energy stores when consumed. The flour and the fruit themselves are better alternatives than “empty carbohydrates” or simple sugars, which provide short bursts of energy; Unlike this, acorns provide a sustained energy boost that is obtained from most nuts.
Acorns and bone health
The impressive mix of minerals found in acorns, which includes phosphorus, potassium, and calcium, helps increase bone health and prevent the onset of osteoporosis. Calcium is one of the most important minerals for bone mineral density, and it is found in high concentrations within acorns.
Types of acorns
There are different types of acorns depending on the tree they come from. Within the same species, there are trees that produce sweeter acorns than others , depending on whether they have a higher or lower tannin content.
It is recommended to look for those trees that produce sweet acorns , which will also have the lowest tannin content. Sour acorns have a higher content of tannins (bitter substances) and can cause poisoning in the event of significant ingestions.
It is possible to see how in the towns, those who consume acorns, have located the trees that produce sweet acorns. For example, it is known that, in general, the acorns produced by holm oaks are sweeter than those produced by holm oaks. And that some oaks produce sweet acorns, while others produce too bitter acorns, which are inedible.
They can be collected from the ground, with the precaution of collecting only the whole ones, and observe that they are not pierced by weevils or rotten by humidity, in which cases they should not be collected. Acorns can also be collected directly from the tree.
Do not collect all or most acorns from a tree . As mentioned in the section on the collection of wild plants , for the consumption of these plants to be sustainable, a responsible collection is necessary. Acorns are necessary to feed forest animals ( squirrels , birds , …), or for some insects to complete their life cycle.
Unlike other berries, acorns do not have to be eaten immediately, but can be stored (as squirrels do ) , and they keep well for a while. Its skin and its tannin content protects it from the attack of bacteria.
At home, the traditional method of storing acorns is to dry-clean them of dirt, dry them and store them in breathable sacks, in a dry, cool and dark place. But, due to the humidity of these fruits, the acorns are very susceptible to the attack of the fungi during their storage . The biggest problem lies in the fact that most of the time, these fungi are not visible and are highly toxic , because they produce aflatoxins , a type of mycotoxins that are very harmful to the liver .
For this reason, at home, it is not recommended to keep acorns for a long time .
How are acorns eaten? Can they be eaten raw?
The acorns sweets can be eaten raw , such as chestnuts, but it is not recommended to eat a lot, because they can be indigestible. Likewise, not all trees produce sweet acorns . For example, the acorns of the holm oaks Quercus ilex L. subsp. ballota , which are considered, by many, the trees that give the best acorns.
In general, acorns have to be debittered before being consumed . In addition, they should be consumed in moderate amounts (excess can be indigestible), and it is always better to eat them after meals (or in a recipe), but it is not recommended on an empty stomach.
Acorns are rich in potassium, phosphorus and calcium. All acorns are edible, the fruit of the acorn is eaten raw or roasted on the grill. Chemical composition found in the acorn:
◦ Water 30%
◦ Carbohydrates 52% (9% fiber).
◦ Lipids 8%
◦ Proteins 5%
◦ Calcium 70 mg / 100 g
◦ Potassium 600 mg / 100 g
◦ Phosphorus 80 mg / 100 g
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