Friday, September 25, 2009
Last weekend, our driveway was suddenly covered with acorns. This happens every fall, but this year, we're not viewing them as a pain-in-the-foot nuisance, because we've learned that pigs love acorns and other nuts. That's what pigs eat in the wild, and mast-finished pork is a gourmet's delight. So, we began our first-ever acorn harvest. The oak tree next to the driveway is a burr oak, and this is what the acorns look like. If you're as uninformed about oaks and acorns as I was a couple months ago, you didn't even know that different oak trees had different types of acorns.
We were wondering if the pigs would mind the big, fuzzy caps on the burr acorns, but apparently it's not a problem. They grab them, crack them, spit out the shell and eat the nut inside. We also did a little taste test to see whether the pigs preferred corn or acorns, and acorns won in a landslide. The pigs were out of food, and we put a pan of corn in their pen. They sniffed it and looked up at us as if to say, "Is this the best you can do?" Then we dumped a bucket of acorns on the ground, and they were on them like flies on a picnic table. We've learned that it works best if we dump the acorns on the ground, because if we put them in a feed pan, the pigs drop the shells back in the feed pan, which we have to empty later. It also makes it harder for the pigs to find the uneaten acorns.
After seeing what the nut looks like, I decided to try one, and they are delicious. They remind me of macadamias, both in taste and appearance. I should point out here that not all acorns are delicious right out of the shell. There are sweet varieties and bitter varieties, and the burr oak is one of the sweet ones. For information on making bitter acorns edible, check out this site. I'm planning to make acorn and white chocolate chip cookies soon.
We also have plenty of other oak trees on our property, including white oaks, which also have sweet acorns. There are red oaks too, which have bitter acorns. We have given a few to the pigs, and they don't seem to mind. Now we just have to figure out the easiest way to get the acorns to the pigs. So far, we're filling up old feed bags, but I'd like to be able to take the pigs to the acorns and let them handle the harvesting themselves.