Make Like a Squirrel

acorns-wild-in-bucket_200.jpgThis fall brought the largest bumper crop of acorns we’ve seen in our eighteen years in Lone Bobcat Woods. This manna from black oak heaven keep Squirrel busy, and Bear and Deer fattened for winter, and maybe skunk and who-knows-who-else. We decided to join the crowd and began harvesting the long shiny-brown nuts from the heritage oaks.

The autumn of 2005 after we learned of peak oil, Robyn had fastened on the idea of harvesting this high-protein, high-fat staple cultivated by the native Maidu people. A grinding rock (bedrock mortar) in our woods, near the year-round spring, ringed by our tallest old oaks, attest to their importance. A decade back we’d eaten some acorn mush prepared by the native people. It had very little flavor — but felt substantial in our tummies.

We collected two five-gallon buckets-full before the rains came, and there was beaucoup bounty, plenty to share. As I gathered acorns under leaves and pine cones, seeing where squirrel had already left acorn caps in piles, I saw abundance — not the scarcity that’s ingrained in our society. A natural economy of plenty, so long as we live within nature’s constraints. It felt like a faint whisper of possibility from past and future, very far from the insecurity and constant straining and striving that’s our civilization’s birthright.

acorn_tools_200.jpgRobyn poured over the internet to find a number of different instructions for preparation, as well as recipes. With trial and error she figured how to crack the nuts (whack them on the tip), then pull apart the innards from the shell using the nutcracker tools. She grinds them into meal in the blender, then leaches out the tannic acid by repeatedly soaking and draining them for a couple days. Finally, they’re dried in a wide pan over the woodstove. Voila! Deep-golden brown acorn meal.

We’ve made acorn pancakes (they’ve got gunch…real staying power), acorn cornbread, and added it to local grass-fed beef meat loaf. Since it has nearly no flavor, it makes a good supplement for a lot of dishes.

Sure, it’s labor intensive. We keep our hands busy while sharing the day or listening to audio programs. There’s a lot more to learn about them, particularly from the local native people. I feel a quiet satisfaction and fascination in our learning this totally native food that requires no petroleum to gather, a minimum of energy to process, and that’s nutritious, adaptable and satisfying.

Chocolate chip acorn cookies, anyone?


  1. I like this article. Thank you.

  2. Still waiting, Janaia . . . . .
    Yes, Sis, we loved the acorn pancake mix you and Robyn gave us for Christmas. It was a great “teaser” for a taste test. Now that you have us hooked, bring on the acorns!

    Love, Terry and Denis

  3. Stuart M. says:

    Okay, Janaia!

    There is obviously a market for acorn meal. When does production begin?

  4. Hi Keith,

    I smiled at your note about my misspelling of “pored”! I think my reptilian kinesthetic brain wrote “poured” because I’m the one who’s been pouring acorns into and out of the buckets… 🙂 So she pores over the internet and I pour out the acorns.

    We gave my family some acorn pancake mix for the holidays, and got back responses of “yes it sticks to the ribs” and “can we have more?”. I’d love other recipe ideas for acorn flour. Hmm, try it in tortillas.

  5. Hi Janaia,
    Acorns are delicious. I’ve used the flour in pancakes, too. One more opportunity to expand our food palette.
    BTW, Robin “pored” over the internet.
    1. to read or study with steady attention or application: a scholar poring over a rare old manuscript.
    2. to gaze earnestly or steadily: to pore over a painting.
    3. to meditate or ponder intently (usually fol. by over, on, or upon): He pored over the strange events of the preceding evening.
    Much love to both of you…

  6. Wow – great site with very good journal entries 🙂 really like this ‘nuts’ article 😛 inspired me to do some things with acorns for hopefully energy 🙂

  7. In the spring, my family discovered the classic _Stalking the Wild Asparagus_ and have been foraging for various foods since then. We’ve been waiting for fall for six months just so we could try out acorns. Last fall we were inundated and enjoyed using them for crafts–but didn’t know how to cook with them.

    This fall? Absolutely no acorns. The entire mid-Atlantic region is totally without acorns, and no one is sure why. The weather? Pollution? We’re hoping things will be back to normal next year.

    Enjoy your meals!

  8. Stuart M. says:


    It’s great to see a new posting in your Journal and one on a topic dear to me. I often visit my sister in Mountain View, CA. Mysteriously mixed in with her magazines on the coffee table (mainly a magazine called Simplicity that is chockfull of cosmetics advertising) is a book on California’s oak trees. I read that book and was fascinated by descriptions of Native Americans eating the oak acorns.

    Well, I figured, why don’t I try to make some acorn flower? On our many hikes together with my sister or parents, I would fill my pockets with whatever acorns I could find. Many an hour was spent shelling acorns. I dried the acorns in the oven. I had to beg my sister to let me grind the acorns in her blender. Just like the book said, I put the acorn meal in a dish cloth and tied the open ends to the kitchen water faucet. I ran the water so there was a steady drip, drip, drip from the bottom of the bag until there was no yellow color. All my efforts were watched with amusement by my family who wondered what is Stuart up to this time. The final product still had some bitterness left. I guess I didn’t leach it long enough. I’m not much of a baker, so I decided to give up on my experiment. The meal and some whole shelled acorns I had left went outside for the squirrels. Were those squirrels ever happy!

    My experience left me with hands sore from shelling acorns, but a new admiration for the Native Americans who ate acorn meal as their staple food. I was sad later to read that California’s oaks are dying off at an alarming rate.


  1. […] by an article written by Janaia from Peak Moment called “Make Like a Squirrel” I’ve found out that you can eat acorns (after quite a lot of preparation!) They were a […]

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