As a New Yorker, I’ve seen how wild squirrels get for acorns around this time of year.
I live in a brownstone where the bushy-tailed creatures travel up and down my fire escape, flying kamikaze-style to land on the trees outside my window, hunting for acorns and other assorted nuts. And I’ve often wondered, what’s so great about acorns anyway? And why are squirrels so nuts about nuts?
So when I re-read Euell Gibbons’ acorn chapter in Stalking the Wild Asparagus, I knew I was onto something.
After an afternoon hike in Harriman State Park, NJ last Saturday—where a friend and I found scores of nibbled-upon red oak acorns (we’d been looking for the white oak acorns which are apparently less bitter)—we scrambled to collect whatever we could get our hungry hands on.
In other words, squirrel-leftovers:
Acorns with holes. Cracked acorns. Acorns without their cute little tweedy-looking caps.
It was slim pickings, but after about an hour, we eventually came up with about 2 cups of edible specimens.
You know an acorn is worthy of being eaten if the following holds true:
- It has a nice hefty weight.
- There are no visible holes.
- There are no real cracks in its shell.
- When you crack it open, the inner flesh is a kind of creamy white reserved for the walls of high-end museums.
Back in New York, I hybridized a Native American acorn bread recipe with Euell Gibbons’, and the results were nothing short of spectacular: a deeply rich, sweet nutty bread reminiscent of the kind of hefty loaves you find in Germany.
The ingredients include: mixing acorn meal with blue cornmeal, flour, brown sugar, a cup of New York water, milk, yeast, and an egg.
(Word to the wise: Acorns can take hours of leaching in water to remove bitterness, plus several rounds in the oven and blender, so it’s best to start in advance of your hunger).
After eating our fill of acorn bread and pancakes, I can now safely say that I know why the squirrels love them so much.
For the exact recipe for Acorn Bread, see my Urban Forager posting in New York Times online.