Monday, October 13, 2008

ACORNS

This past month, we have been showered with white oak acorns, “Quercus bullets,” I call them. They sound like hail falling on the roof and even persist through the night. The sound of falling acorns is usually followed by feet scampering across the rooftop – sounds I hope are those of squirrels and not of rats. In the place where we stayed at St. Mary Convent in the St. Anselm's cottage, these bullets were huge nuts, but here at 65 Fairbanks, they’re smaller and hit the roof with greater frequency. I hope the roof holds up because I already have to replace my damaged Louisiana roof that was hit by the last two hurricanes.

I’m told that the white oaks here at Sewanee produce a tasty acorn with a nutty flavor that improves with roasting. If there are Tennesseans with appetites for these nuts, someone more enterprising than I am could probably make a mint on this year’s bumper crop. Their competition would be squirrels and deer that consume a large percentage of the crop. Twenty-five percent of a deer’s diet during the Fall months consists of acorns (the other 75% is my flower bed). Many of the animals wait for groundwater to puddle and leach the tannins out of the acorns before they harvest and eat the nuts.

As I said, the white oak acorns are much more palatable than other acorns and don’t contain as many bitter-tasting tannins. Koreans make a jelly called dotorimunk from acorns. Acorns were an important source of nutrition for indigenous peoples in California, and native American women shelled and pulverized acorns during the fall season, producing meal they used to bake cakes and breads. Native American men built ground fires to ward off acorn moths and weevils. Not only did the fires destroy these pests, the burning was a good forest management technique. Today, acorn gourmets grind the white oak acorns into meal, mix with cornmeal, pat the mixture into cakes, then fry them. For those who are interested in keeping their health top notch, acorns are reputed to be the best known natural controllers of blood sugar. Lastly, during the 17th century, a juice extracted from acorns (the ones with much tannin and bitter taste) was given to an alcoholic to deter him from drinking.

This is probably more information than you wanted to know concerning the Autumnal fall of acorns in Middle Tennessee, but I just had to share my amazement at the abundance of this resource. And for all you senior women out there, a British legend purports that a woman who carries an acorn in her pocket will enjoy delayed aging. When I returned from a morning walk to the post office, I bent down and picked up a shiny brown nut and slipped it into my pocket. It was a necessary act. On this walk, we stopped in at the University supply store, and an 80-year old clerk told me she guessed I was near her age!!
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