The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has a lot to answer for when it comes to the mania for acorns sweeping mainstream media. After the publication reported on how South Koreans are devouring the nut thanks to its nutritional properties, the idea has spread like wildfire, spawning articles on The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Independent, often accompanied by whispers of the word ‘superfood.’
So just how much attention to these mutterings should we pay attention to?
While in South Korea they may be consumed as noodles, jelly and powder, acorns are in fact no stranger to experimentation in Europe, too.
Mostly, the nuts appear in the form of a gluten-free flour. Ollie Dabbous, for instance, use them to make a pain au raisin at Michelin-starred Hide, while Spanish chef Jose Pizarro employs them in the creation of rosca (a kind of sweet bread in the shape of a large doughnut).
The Woodland Trust, on the other hand, suggests making acorns into a kind of caffeine-free ‘coffee’ drink.
Prior to use, the fruit of the oak is usually left to soak in water so as to leach out the bitter, unpalatable tannins. It can also be boiled or roasted to produce a similar effect.
Once the bitterness has been removed, the flavour is variously described as nutty or smoky.
A nutty idea
While easy to gather and store on a small scale, acorns are less easy to purchase on a larger scale in the UK. Over in Spain, however, they are easier to obtain, as they are used to fatten pigs destined for jamon Iberico.
Like the argument for eating rare breeds, some have suggested that eating more acorns could improve the number of oak trees thanks to increased demand. Others, however, have expressed concern that human consumption could jeopardise the food chain for other animals.
From a nutritional standpoint, acorns do have a number of positive properties, including protein, vitamin C, and minerals like magnesium, calcium and phosphorous. A study published earlier this year even suggested they could even help improve communication between the gut and the brain to reduce obesity and type 2 diabetes – though this has only been shown in mice.
Does Sparkie think acorns are a tough nut to crack?
I have previously seen acorn flour, but it’s been a long time since I saw anything on it really so assumed it didn’t come to anything. They do contain a high level of tannins, which means they won’t be to everyone’s taste because of the bitterness even after they are soaked/boiled to leach out most of them.
Nutritionally they seem pretty good, containing a reasonable amount of vitamins and minerals, unsaturated fats and quite high levels of antioxidants. Looking around, it seems that they have the perception of being poisonous, which could make it a difficult sell. There is potential there, but there are definitely hurdles to overcome.