Monday, October 24, 2011
AN ACRE OF ACORNS
Acorns of White Oaks at Sewanee are elephantine compared to the nuts that fall from my Louisiana backyard oak, but the result is the same – the feel and sound of acorns crunching underfoot and littering daily. In my readings about the acorn, I find that most acorns are garnered by birds (especially jays and woodpeckers) before they fall to the ground, and they also provide tasty fare for mice, wood rats, and pigs (?), although I haven’t seen the latter rooting in the yard yet! Armadilloes, yes; pigs, no.
The tannins in acorns agree with the digestion of some animals, but we aren’t among them, unless the nuts are soaked in water for awhile so that the tannins leach out. California Native Americans once fought over trees that bore acorns low in tannins and sweet in taste.
I haven’t spied an acorn woodpecker yet, but these birds subsist on acorns where several species of Live Oaks grow close to each other and produce abundant crops of the nut. Acorns also attract wasps, and I’ve spied a few of their nests near the patio since returning home to Louisiana. Birds sometimes eat the wasp larvae for dessert following a meal of acorns.
Recipes using acorns abound – acorn flour honey cake, acorn pasta, roasted acorns, acorn soup, to name a few. As for me, I’ll sweep the “mast crop” into the backyard for the jays and squirrels and leave the remainder of the harvest for old hippies to eat!
An excerpt from one of my old poems that is unpublished entitled “South Wind:”
“…that same South wind
moves an irksome squirrel,
her pet, a comrade who scatters nuts
before the torn screen door,
sensing she has reached
the gate of a worthy despair,
and leaves his tokens of communication
within her reach,
offering the best a creature can give
to one who hasn’t the peace
of the squirrel, swinging,
limb-hung, in the hot south wind,
eating the nut of a tree’s kindness…”