HOW TO USE ACORNS FOR FOOD AND BREAD There are many species of oak trees. They prefer open woods and bottom land. Normally, they are divided into two major groups: Red Oak - The red oaks have deeply scalloped leaves with very pointed tips. The acorns from the red oak are very bitter. The acorns require two growing seasons to mature, have a hairy lining on the inside of the shell, and the nutmeats are yellow in color. Red oaks are also members of the black oak family. White Oak - The white oak also has leaves with deep scallops, but the Tips are rounded. The acorns of the white oak are less bitter than those of the red oak, and they require only one growing season. The inner portion of the white oak acorn shell is smooth, and the nutmeat is white in color. The chestnut oak is considered part of the white oak classification. NUTS: The nuts are gathered during the fall from September to October. When processed properly, acorns have a pleasant nutty flavor. Acorns are an excellent source of energy, protein, carbohydrate, and calcium. When collecting acorns, one should not be surprised that many of them must be discarded due to insects or mold, so more should be collected than are needed. If you spread a sheet of plastic under the tree and use only those acorns that fall within a one-day period, this seems to reduce bug infestation, an especially important problem for acorns that are to be stored in their shell. The ripe tan-to-brown acorns, rather than the unripe green ones, should be gathered. The bitterness in acorns is caused by tannic acid which is water soluble. To remove this unpleasant taste, shell the brown, ripe acorns and remove any corky skin layers, dice the meat; and boil the chunks in water from 15 to 30 minutes until the water turns brown. Then pour off the water and repeat the process until the water clears, indicating that the tannic acid has been removed. Periodically taste a bit of the acorns until you no longer detect any bitterness. (Native Americans would let the crushed acorn meat soak in a fast-moving, clean stream for several weeks to remove the bitterness.) During the last boiling, salt water can be added; then the acorns can be deep fried or mixed in a soup. Also, finely chopped acorn meats can be added to bread and muffins, or the soft acorn nut can be added as a protein booster to cooked greens. After the leaching process, acorn meat can be frozen. To make flour, the boiled acorn meat can be split in two and dried by slowly baking in a 200 degree oven with the door cracked to allow moisture to escape. Or, they can be dried in the sun. They are then crushed or ground and used as a thickener or as flour. Another method is to roast the fresh acorns to work well in a grinder or blender. After grinding, the course flour is placed into a cloth bag and boiled to leach out the tannic acid. Acorn flour can be used alone to make an acorn bread, but it is not very pleasing to most tastes. Acorn flour is more palatable when mixed with wheat flour or corn meal-one part acorn meal mixed with four parts corn meal for corn bread, or one to four parts wheat for bread. The acorn meal can also be heated in water to make a nutritious mush. Or add enough water to make a thick batter. Add a dash of salt and sweetener to improve the taste. Allow the batter to stand for an hour (or until thick) then pat into pancakes and cook or twist and bake on an open fire. The leached acorns, after they are roasted until brittle, can be ground and used as a marginal coffee substitute. In their shell, the dried acorns will store for a time. Some Native Americans stored acorns for several years in bags buried in boggy areas.