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.)
Here is what the boiled acorns look like:
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.
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.)
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.
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