Acorns from the Cork Oak Tree Can Be Cooked and Eaten Like Chestnuts

Map of the habitat range of the Cork Oak, or Quercus suber

Most commonly known for its use in making cork, the Cork Oak tree’s acorns are a delicious nut fruit which can be found for sale in Southern (Western) European and North African markets, already boiled and ready-to-eat, in late November.

The acorns are up to four centimeters long (two inches), and are boiled before eating, similar to the way chestnuts are boiled before peeling.  The fruit of the nut tastes sweet, and remarkably like chestnuts.  (I would not be able to tell the difference in a blind taste test.)  This cooked nut is large and meaty and makes a perfect substitute for chestnuts in any Thanksgiving or Christmas recipes.  (The advantages to using acorns over chestnuts is that each acorn contains double the meat of a chestnut, and the step of cutting x‘s in the chestnuts before boiling them can be dispensed with.)

Acorn of Quercus suber (Cork Oak) on the tree

Here is what the boiled acorns look like:

Cooked Acorns from the Cork Oak Tree (Quercus suber)

I had never heard of eating acorns, or that the Cork Oak even had an edible fruit.

If you live in North Africa, the name of the fruit (and the name of the tree) is called ba-lote (neither syllable emphasized, and “lote” rhymes with “note, but draw out the long o sound twice as long as it would be in English).  They are sold on carts in the medinas (older parts of town) of North African cities and towns.

Cork Trees in Portugal, called "Balote" in North Africa.

Doing some research on line, I discovered that oak trees are divided into two main groups, Red Oaks and White Oaks.  The White Oaks are all the genus Quercus, while the Red Oaks are the genus Mesobalanus.

Acorns from the various Red Oak species contain much higher amounts of bitter tannins (which interfere with the ability to metabolize protein).  The acorns from White Oaks are much lower in tannins, and have a sweet nutty flavor.    The Cork Oak tree itself belongs to the White Oak genus, and White Oak is used to make wine barrels.

Acorns are an important food for birds, and for many small and large mammals (pigs, bears, and deer); however, they are toxic to horses.  In Portugal and Spain, pigs are turned loose in oak groves in the autumn to fatten themselves before slaughter.  (This is similar to American pigs being fattened on peanuts in order to produce the famous Virginia Smithfield hams.)

Smithfield Ham

Acorns have a high nutritional value, and compare well with other nuts  in terms of being high in protein and carbohydrates, as well as important minerals.  Acorns are are sometimes ground into flour, as well as sometimes roasted and added to coffee drinks.

Are any of my readers eating acorns, anywhere in the world?  If so, please tell me about it!  I had never heard before today that acorns were an edible fruit; I hope others will have an opportunity to try them.

Enjoy!

–Lynne Diligent

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20 Responses to “Acorns from the Cork Oak Tree Can Be Cooked and Eaten Like Chestnuts”

  1. Lynne Diligent Says:

    from Valerie Rude: I may have a cork oak tree growing outside my door here at my assignment location in TX next to the Mexican border. They are plentiful. I’m not going to try to eat one until I know for sure what these nuts are.

  2. Lynne Diligent Says:

    New York Times article regarding a great drop in supply of red acorns in the U.S. this year, the expected subsequent crash in the mouse/rodent population, and expected susequent explosion of Lyme Disease in 2010. The article says that this acorn decline may be a regular and long-term survival technique of the Oak tree.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/03/nyregion/boom-and-bust-in-acorns-will-affect-many-creatures-including-humans.html?_r=1

  3. I totally heart this!!!!!!!!!!!! Says:

    I totally heart this!!!!!!!!!!!!…

    [...]Acorns from the Cork Oak Tree Can Be Cooked and Eaten Like Chestnuts « Intercultural Meanderings[...]…

  4. bourri Says:

    je suis du nord ouest de la tunisie chez nous les gens mangent le gland de la chêne liège rôti et il est de grande importance pour nourrir les animaux( sanglier, mouton , chêvre…)

    Translation: “I am from the north west of Tunisia in our people eat the acorn of the cork oak and roasted it is very important to feed the animals (wild boar, sheep, goat …)”

  5. Darren Says:

    Hi Lynne!
    I enjoyed your post about the Cork Oak Acorn. As a native american I am very aware many Indian groups utilized Acorns as a key food source. Mostly as flour and roasted nuts. Red Acorns are also edible, but must be boiled and rinsed out a number of times to remove the tannin. While it might sound like more trouble, the Red Oaks have a much larger range, and some species are more prolific acorn producers. However many white oaks were particularly favoured. Especially Emory and Live Oak trees. Among others.
    The practice of releasing the hogs to feed also was practised with some old Heritage Hog breeds here as well. Thanks for the info.

  6. Erich Says:

    “Tree crops”, published in 1929 by J.Russell Smith describes in detail the various edible acorns and oak tree crops used historically around the Mediterranean and in America. I have a row of 11 young cork oaks germinated from acorns growing with a view to wind break, cattle fodder, and potentially human fodder uses, as well as being fire resistant.

    I have also got a quercus macrocarpa – bur oak – growing from an acorn, which has large edible acorns. It might be a few years before get a crop though!

  7. david Says:

    I am from Iran.In west part of Iran specialy in Lorestan provience and in some parts of Kurdistan provience acorne is a main source of food for people living in rural areas. Acorne is used as bread ( by making flour first) and using in daily meals as well.( I have traslated bellow part from a persian website for your more info.)
    Oak fruit is picked from the tree by women and men. Fruit with a knife called “Vrnjvk” skin exposure. Action the fruit of the oak bark “Kykh” they say. The oak bark was made into a pit called “Lhh” where they throw fire. After being Lhh oak, chestnut and also some fire coming down from the high heat, cook it thoroughly. After some time off to Lhh Vblvt get them out and spread them in the sun to dry completely. The oaks at mill hand named “Brdr” which is a Central Vabtdayy very simple, make flour. This is “Tlv” they say. After the substance obtained by boiling water chestnut flour to the dough. Knead flour in a bin or bag may be made of oak. The dough will hold a three-day warm-up match practice quite a fever and localism.

    After three days Kzsht, acorn squash into bags or sacks are dumped it in the water. In the absence of running water chestnut paste with cold water wash. Acorn squash in the tub with cold water, the bitter taste is gone sour Vkhmyr.

    Chestnut flour is washed out, the water is still in the hand-mill to Asia. The flour on the cloth called “Rygv” are to be taken to the water. Acorn bread acorn squash is ready now to prepare. After being baked bread, chestnut brown and slightly charred tends to be dark. Bread oak Bakhtiari language “Oak Clegg” they say.

  8. Reuf Moghadam Says:

    Please wright and email me acorn oak fruit medicinal use .
    Thanks . Reuf Moghadam .tex .USA

  9. Megan Martinez Says:

    As I lay here in my garden in southern Spain and hear the sound if nits falling around me, I am thrilled to discover your very informative article which answers my question: are these acorns edible?

    My tree is quite fruitful, and I’m glad to know something can be done with them!
    Thanks!

  10. Moon Gyu Lee Says:

    Ah, so they were acorns of Q. suber! Ever since I came to Morocco I wondered from which species they were from…. it is nice to find the answer finally. Thanks.

    People from my country, Korea, also use acorns for food; we extract starch from them and use it to make a kind of jelly called Dotorimuk. Although acorns from all species can be used to make them, those from Q. acutissima(called Sangsuri in Korean) are most prefered, while acorns from evergreen species that belong to subgenus Cyclobalanopsis are rarely used.

  11. Brian Says:

    A recent story from NPR on the “paleo diet” of late-Pleistocene hunter-gatherers in Morocco involving acorns:

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/01/06/260185944/looks-like-the-paleo-diet-wasnt-so-hot-for-ancient-hunters-teeth

    A short URL if that one is truncated: http://n.pr/1cO1ZtQ

  12. Lisa Moulton Says:

    Thank you, I never knew the acorns from cork oaks were edible, especially just roasted – I must try it. In California, and much of the US the white, black, blue and live oaks have edible acorns – but not until they are ground and the tannins leached out. Acorn flour/mush was a big part of the diet of native people here for thousands of years. My children like to do this and we make bread and other things with acorn flour. Wildlife: deer, squirrels, birds and others still depend on the acorns and don’t seem to be bothered by the tannins.

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