Friday, September 25, 2009

Acorn harvest

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.


Henwhisperer said...

I've been harvesting hazelnuts for our pigs. They crunch them right up, shells and all. It is exciting though to think about pigs finished on hazelnuts and apples. Oh, the joy of creating recipes from the ground up!

Sarah said...

I just found your blog via Food Renegade's Fight Back Friday and am enjoying reading about your journey! My husband and I hope to buy some land in the next year or two and become more sustainable (at the minimum a bigger garden and orchard, some chickens and pigs and maybe a cow or two) and I'm loving reading your blog for inspiration! I just subscribed in a reader . . . can't wait to read more!


PS - I didn't know that there were sweet and bitter acorns. Where I'm from in California all acorns are quite bitter. Some of my ancestors (I'm part Kumeyaay, a Native American tribe from down near San Diego. I'm also largely German, Welsh and French! So, just some of them . . . :) ate acorns regularly as part of their diet, but it always included a multi-day leaching process to get rid of the bitterness and acidity before they could grind them into flour. I've never seen acorns like yours! I'm glad the pigs are enjoying them . . .

Anonymous said...

A coworker used to use the phrase "Even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while" meaning that everyone gets lucky sometimes - now I know the meaning behind the statement! Just one more example of how the things around us are treasures if we look hard enough!

Lisa French

Anonymous said...

Do not believe I have ever seen such an acorn. =) Thank you for the education.


Howdy All. I never knew acorns were edible at all. I thought they were poisonous or something. Which made me wonder how the Native Americans could eat them... (Iron constitutions?)

So, it's just a matter of bitterness, eh? How cool!

I still think you should investigate getting a pony or two and a small wagon to haul bags or buckets to wherever on your property ie, hogs or sugar shack.

Michelle said...

The only acorn I've ever eaten was bitter; nice to know they aren't all that way!

Unknown said...

Who knew? As kids we played with acorns, threw them at each other (shudder!), but never once tried to eat one. I suppose they were the bitter kind and most people knew that. It's fascinating to learn that there are edible acorns.

Nancy in Iowa

MaskedMan said...

My mother's property is covered in pin oaks... We could really use your pigs to clean up their prolific acorn harvest!

I've never tried a sweet acorn - I need to go find myself some.

AlizaEss said...

Thanks for pointing out this specific kind of tasty acorn. I noticed those burred caps and tons of acorns all over the ground next to my work and harvested a whole bunch. As soon as I get the energy to shell them all, I can't wait to make some spicy roasted acorns!

Heidi G said...

Hi there! I came upon your blog while looking to identify a 'fuzzy top acorn.' Your photo popped up on Google and I found out they are called Burr Acorns. Thanks so much for the info! I checked out the rest of your blog posts and they are quite entertaining. I am a Park Ranger in Baltimore, MD and I'd love to read more. Good luck with the farm!


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