Oak: Plant profile
Oak Tree, English Oak, European Oak, Pedunculated Oak, Sessile Oak, Dair Ghallda
Quercus robur, Quercus petraea & other Quercus spp.
Oak is native to Europe, north Africa and western Asia, though planted worldwide. Very common in the UK and Ireland.
Where to find Acorns
Acorns come from Oak trees growing in hedgerow, woodland and in parks.
When to find Acorns
Acorns are ripe in early autumn, when they start to fall down.
How to identify Oak
Oak is a large, deciduous tree growing up to 40m tall. It has wide-spreading, branches on a short, robust trunk with greyish-brown bark. Most oak trees have simple, lobed leaves,which are dark green on top and pale green beneath.Male flowers are on catkins and hang down, while female flowers are small and red and are located on short stalks called peduncles. The encased brown fruit is the acorn and resemble a nut.
There are hundreds of different species of Oak tree and Quercus robur and Quercus petraea are the most common in the British Isles. All of them are edible, but acorns from certain species may be extremely bitter.
All about Acorns
Oak is the most common woodland tree in the UK and Ireland; so much that it has been a national symbol of strength and longevity for English culture, heavily featured on folklore, literature and local history. The saying goes “Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow” meaning that something great may come from a modest beginning.
Acorn is the nut of the Oak Tree (Quercus sp). There are two native species in Britain: the English Oak (Quercus robur) and Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea). Both of them have slight differences and often hybridise in the wild (Quercus x rosacea).
Medicinal properties of Acorns
The oak tree has a long history of medicinal use and it has been valued for its astringent properties. All parts of the oak, including wood, bark, leaves, acorns and galls, have been used for medicinal purposes.
Acorns are nutrient-rich and contain starch, oil, protein and minerals.
Culinary use and recipes with Acorns
The trees are all around us and are quite prolific; yet rare are the people who bother with acorns. The issue with the nuts is not their flavour but the effort involved in getting them processed, because they are naturally inedible to us humans. Acorns are packed in tannins; which is a compound that makes them astringent, therefore they must be processed or “leached” to make them palatable.
The nuts are very nutritious and provide a complete vegetable protein, the starch, which is the toughest thing to forage for. Nutty and sweet, they provide an alternative gluten-free version for regular grain flours that contains large amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fats.
Safe foraging of Acorns
The high tannin content in oak may irritate the digestive system. Leaching is necessary before consumption.
Ecological importance of Oak
Oak trees support more life than any other native tree species in the British Isles and Acorns are a significant food source for a number of small mammals such as mice and squirrel, and some birds, such as jays . A lot of insect species depend on Oaks too.