An Acorn a Day

When I was a schoolkid we went on field trips to a rebuilt Miwok village and learned how this Native American tribe ate acorns—though the nuts had to be leached of their bitter tannic acid first. I was curious about acorns at the time, but it wasn’t until this week that I heard of anyone in the modern era trying to eat them. Michael Procopio, writing for Bay Area Bites, tells of making acorn pancakes.

The acorns had been foraged by Procopio’s goddaughter, much to his surprise. “When I think of foraging, if at all, my mind goes to truffle pigs and strange old men materializing back around the kitchen door with boxes of strange looking mushrooms in their arms and cigarettes dangling from their weather-beaten lower lips.” But forage she had and now there were acorns to somehow be used, though exactly how was not clear.

Though I am technically 1/8 Native American, genetically speaking, I received none of the famous resourcefulness of these ancestors. … Besides, my ancestors were from the Great Plains. They couldn’t walk ten steps without falling over a bison. I had no idea what to do with acorns.

A brief Internet search turned up instructions for how to leach the acorns and a recipe for acorn pancakes. “The results were great,” Michael reports. “The meal had a flavor reminiscent of chestnuts. When combined with honey and butter? I would use an expletive here to convey how good they were, but I thought better of it.”

With nearly three-quarters of the traditional Native American population in California relying on acorns as their main food staple at one time, those Miwoks were clearly on to something. Perhaps with the emphasis on celebrating heritage and local foods we’ll see a new resurgence of acorn dishes. This Northern California native wants to give it a taste.

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