New England Acorn Cooperative

A Gathering Place for the Acorn Community

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Marvel: Good vs Bad acorns

GOOD vs BAD There are many factors, but our first criteria for “good” centers around size, condition, and convenienceSize is straightforward – the bigger the better (more nut/less shell as the diameter increases). Condition includes environment, maturity, blemishes, and pests.  Convenience includes collection location and requirements of storage and processing. Of the many, many varieties of oak  (see USDA Field Guide to Native Oak Species of North America)   we divide (for convenience) what we work with into “red” (pointy leaved) and “white” (smooth-lobed leaved) acorns. For processing and storage convenience (and higher oil ratios) we work mostly with red oak acorns.

 WHAT TO LOOK FOR The picture above shows acorns  from three different red oak trees  (gathered within 5 miles of each other) in various stages of “maturity” (greener generally means recently fallen, browner has dried a bit more) variations of elevation and sun exposure can account for differences in color.  For the picture above, we lined up the “good” acorns on top and the “bad” acorns beneath.

Good examples seem blemish-free, perhaps some mottling as they dry.

 Bad examples include: acorn weevil holes (that’s an exit hole folks), cracks, bulging in odd ways, any black or yuck looking stuff), and a cap that is stuck on tight. Generally, the caps should be off, or come off easily when you try to remove them.  A cap that is welded on usually indicates “inhabitants” – not good for human consumption (but good for art/craft).

 

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White oak acorns mature in one year, fall in autumn and sprout when they hit the ground.  If you work quickly, you can process a newly sprouted acorn for eating. White acorns can be easier to shell, and all the processing steps are essentially the same.  However, if you don’t work quickly to process or dry them –  they either sprout too far (for our purposes) or spoil.

Red oak acorns take two years to mature,  fall in autumn but do not sprout until the next spring. Their shell is a bit harder to crack, but we find them easier to dry and store. For this and a couple other reasons, we favor the red oak acorns so our travels, practices, recipes and workshops are all geared for that kind of nut.

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 WHAT TO LOOK FOR Lined up above, the “good” acorns on top and the “bad” acorns beneath.

Good examples seem blemish-free, perhaps some mottling as they dry.

Bad examples include: acorn weevil holes (that’s an exit hole folks), cracks, bulging in odd ways, any black or yuck looking stuff), and a cap that is stuck on tight. Generally, the caps should be off, or come off easily when you try to remove them.  A cap that is welded on usually indicates “inhabitants” – not good for human consumption (but good for art/craft).

We hand pick our harvests, doing a quick visual inspection before it goes in the basket. When we get the acorns home, we do a quick bath to knock the road dust off AND this bath also serves as a “Float Test since those that float are often buggy and can be returned to the wildlife larder immediately.

IMPORTANT All acorns you gather will need to be dried before storage or further processing. If you leave your collection in the bag or bucket you gathered in – it will spoil within a day or two. Acorns can be dried on sheets in the sun,  baking pans in the oven (below 110 degrees) or around the radiator or wood stove. Fully dried acorns  in shell will store for years, but even if you intend to process for food immediately – a little drying time will make them easier to shell and sort. For further processing steps, please see guides at the top of our Resources page. Happy acorn hunting!

 

Preparing and Cooking Acorns with the Boston Food Forest Coalition

Our next workshop – Sunday October 21st – with the Boston Food Forest Coalition takes the next step and includes cooking with freshly made acorn flour! Join us from 1PM to 4PM at the Hawthorne Youth & Community Center Inc: 9 Fulda St, Roxbury, Massachusetts 02119

Activities will include demonstration of steps from gathering and cracking acorns, leaching, drying and making flour with tools found in most kitchens. Then hands on cooking: acorn coffee, acorn cookies and acorn pudding.

Spaces are limited, reserve yours through the Boston Food Forest Coalition’s website or Eventbrite.  Donations to BFFC cover the cost of materials and ingredients and are greatly appreciated!IMG_8972

Got Acorns?

Fall newsletter is in the works – new oak folks and resources to talk about :-) Bless those with time to write – and those who have shared stories and stores from last season: thanks to Tim, Dani, Myles and Nancy – this fall’s acorn processing workshops have seasoned nuts to demo (and make cookies from).

Our baskets are beginning to fill this month, but are still pretty green – the bakers racks and perforated pans donated last year are a dream for drying.  The Cooperative can always use more AND dry room to store (if you have space).  Got acorns? Got space? Send us a picture! Get in touch :-)

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Meantime, in between fall workshops – The FIRST New England Acorn Cooperative Community Cracking is scheduled for October 21, 2018.  Following an acorn processing workshop with the Boston Food Forest Coalition, the Cooperative will make our “DaveBuilt” nut cracker available to the acorn gathering community to get cracking  (we can even arrange to supply muscle if needed). Please message the Cooperative on FB to reserve a time slot. There will also be a TBD November Community Cracking date. Stay tuned – and join us for an October workshop.

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Happy nut hunting!

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Cheers,

Ana, Deb, Jesse & Daniela

RESCHEDULED to 10/2/2018 – Acorn Workshop at D Acres

In honor of one just departed,  the 9.2/2018 acorn processing workshop will be held next month: 10.7.2018

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Talk about food not to be missed….

Gleaning  – the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest, is a practice described in the Hebrew Bible that became a legally enforced entitlement…. (Wikipedia)

Are you familiar with the Boston Area Gleaners?  They harvest surplus farm crops and donate to dozens of area food banks, meal programs, & low-income markets, preventing waste and nourishing local families. Tonight’s special dinner at Mei Mei in Boston is an  “ALLocal dinner”  served to raise awareness around the benefits and challenges of seasonal cooking and promote local agriculture and seafood, by highlighting local food and local food systems. The Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts (SBN) defines local as the New England regional food system.  Come, enjoy and glean something about gleaning in the Boston Area Gleaner‘s area!

TICKETS

Location: Mei Mei Restaurant, 506 Park Drive, Boston, MA 02215
Website: http://www.meimeiboston.com/
Time: 5:30-6:00PM Registration, Social, Introductions by Chef and Farmer
6:00-8:00PM Dinner
Menu: 8 family style dishes
Travel: Closest MBTA Stop: Fenway T. Street parking is metered.
Beneficiary: Boston Local Food Program

Excellent permaculture article about acorns…

In addition to an excellent article about bringing acorns to the table, the print version of the zine permaculture (issue 9 Summer 2018 ) also has a nice article about D Acres – check it out!  In person, join us there for our 9/2/2018 acorn processing workshop :-)

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OAK everybody, come learn how to make acorn flour – it’s fun!

Acorns are coming & we want to share safe and simple ways to process them into  delicious foods and beverages!

Join us Sunday September 2nd 1PM at beautiful D Acres Organic Farm and Educational Homestead for gathering walk and processing workshop.

Come early to explore, the fabulous “All You Should Eat” Farm breakfast starts at 10am!

TO REGISTER: Call 603-786-2366 & save your seatSee you there!

DAcres Acorn Workshop9.2.2018

Acorn Festival Fun at D Acres!

Once in a blue moon, we post something so late…its almost not OaK: Belated and BIG THANKS to awesome hosts and participants of the 1st Annual Acorn Festival at D Acres Permaculture Farm & Homestead December 2017.

After the fantastic Farm Feast breakfast,  the mighty acorn was celebrated from soup to nuts with a gathering walk, processing tools & demonstrations, acorn dishes & oak’d drinks to sample, and recipes to review:  it was a celebration to re-new appreciation for an ancient food.  

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Our walk around the local oaks to discuss judging a “good” (for eating) acorn from a “bad” one, tools & techniques for gathering efficiently, and considerations for care in the areas one gathers from –  confirmed that wildlife had thoroughly gleaned this harvest at D Acres! Fortunately, we had acorns from the Commonwealth, Maine, and Vermont in tow…

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So we were soon back in the beautifully warm D Acres kitchen space for hands-on experience with the “float test” (sorting good from bad),  cleaning, and cracking open the acorns with hammers, stones, and the DaveBuilt nut-cracker…

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Then we had cookies!

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And bread, and pudding.  Acorn books and recipes were perused, contests were won for largest and smallest acorns and art. See the Resource Page for the presentation/how to.

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It was nuts, and good fun – thank you EVERY ONE!

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We look forward to new friends and recipes at the table for the 2nd annual  ACORN FESTIVAL at D ACRES, following the fabulous Farm Feast…  Meantime, may your 2018 be full of good people and nuts!

xox Deb & Daniela

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btw, was fueled back to the Commonwealth by the best cup of brewed beans to be found around – don’t miss a chance to check out Lucky’s Coffee Garage on the green in Lebanon on your way to or from D Acres!

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Roots of the word “acorn”…

Wikipedia says the word acorn (earlier akerne, and acharn) is related to the Gothic name akran, which had the sense of “fruit of the unenclosed land”. The word was applied to the most important forest produce, that of the oak. … The current spelling (emerged 15c.-16c.), derives from association with ac (Old English: “oak”) + corn. (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acorn)

 AND/OR

The OED provides this tale: : The formal history of this word has been much perverted by ‘popular etymology.’ OE. æcern neut., pl. æcernu, is cogn. w. ONor. akarn neut. (Dan. agern, Norw. aakorn), Dutch aker ‘acorn,’ OHG. ackeran masc. and neut. (mod.G. ecker, pl. eckern) ‘oak or beech mast,’ Goth. akran ‘fruit,’ prob. a deriv. of Goth. akr-s, ONor. akr, OE. æcer ‘field,’ orig. ‘open unenclosed country, the plain.’

Hence akran appears to have been originally ‘fruit of the unenclosed land, natural produce of the forest,’ mast of oak, beech, etc., as in HG., extended in Gothic to ‘fruit’ generally, and gradually confined in Low G., Scand., and Eng., to the most important forest produce, the mast of the oak. (See Grimm, under Ackeran and Ecker.) In Ælfric’s Genesis xliv. 11, it had perhaps still the wider sense, a reminiscence of which also remains in the ME. akernes of okes.

Along with this restriction of application, there arose a tendency to find in the name some connexion with oak, OE. ác, north. akeaik. Hence the 15th and 16th c. refashionings ake-cornoke-cornake-hornoke-horn, with many pseudo-etymological and imperfectly phonetic variants. Of these the 17th c. literary acron seems to simulate the Gr. ἄκρον top, point, peak.

The normal mod. repr. of OE. æcern would be akernakren, or ? atchern as already in 4; the actual acorn is due to the 16th c. fancy that the word corn formed part of the name.  (from https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/140177/what-is-the-origin-of-acorn)

Roots of such words do run deep, no? 😉

So, what is the acorn lore, symbolism, significance in your family, culture…future? Irregardless (as they say in the Commonwealth) have fun with it!

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Here is a wonderful way to learn more about humans relationship to oaks:

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If you order through Amazon, we’d appreciate your choosing to contribute toward the New England Acorn Cooperative, “A gathering Place For the Acorn Community” Thanks & blessings!

NOFA Summer Workshop done & FUN!

New England Acorn Cooperative Arborist Timothy Ryan  and Forager/Herbalist Danielle McDonald got cracking and gave a fun and informative acorn processing workshop at the 43 Annual NOFA (Northeast Organic Farmer Association)* Conference at Hampshire College on August 11-13th.

We’ll spare the words and let the pictures speak – with BIG THANKS to Tim and Dani for travel, set-up, workshop, tool demonstrations, acorn bread breaking, and again – Dani for the wonderful photos!

Processing hand-out below at bottom, with thanks to author & acorn hunter Myles Green for development, editing,  & encouraging creative commons publication.

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Tim brought his favorite gathering tool –

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Various methods of cracking an acorn were tested…

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The DaveBuilt Cracker… (and display on table behind – of acorns at various stages of processing for consumption)..

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The acorn bread was a hit (after the cookies were gone…) :-)

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*The NOFA Summer Conference is a three day solutions-oriented annual celebration of the grassroots organic movement. Gardeners, farmers, growers and food-lovers from across the Northeast meet to share inspiration and ideas for organic food, farming, health, activism, and beyond. With an array of workshops, seminars, exhibits, food and fun, learning becomes a community action.

NOFA gives us all a place to gather ideas, seeds and new friends… Be sure to check out the Winter 2018 NOFA Conference in Worcester.

 

Next acorn workshop (& 1st New England Acorn Cooperative Festival) will be Sunday, December 3rd at D Acres in NH.  Details coming soon!

 

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