We walked into Duns last weekend, as it was cold and crisp, we started by striding through the wee wood to the Gavinton ford and were gobsmacked at the number of acorns underfoot, there were gazillions!
Knowing that acorns are widely eaten by birds such as jays, woodpeckers and pigeons and that squirrels and mice enjoy an acorn snack we only gathered a couple of handfuls intending to spray them copper for Christmas decorations, but wondered what else we could use them for. Radio 4 supplied some ideas later in the week and the answer to a fairly obvious question – why don’t pigs eat acorns anymore?
Grazing rights for pigs in woodland and commons was a very welcome source of free food for the pigs and used to give the pork a sweet tasting flesh. But, once canning of ham became popular and widespread it was found that the fat from acorn fed pigs didn’t set in the can and was still runny when opened. So poor piggy lost his acorn treats and we have lost out on what is reputedly a fabulous tasting bacon buttie.
Acorns are high in Tannic Acid which is toxic to us in high quantities so we need to remove this before we can eat them. Native Americans would take the acorn kernel out of the shell, put them in a bag and place it in a fast flowing stream for a few hours. Nowadays it’s recommended to steep them in warm water, changing the water as it turns brown (like tea), with the leeched out Tannic acid, until the water stays clear and tastes bland. Then, let the kernels dry out overnight before grinding them to a flour to use as you would wheat flour, but with extra baking powder needed.
Ersatz coffee, drank by Germans in WWII was made from roasted acorns but is said to be rather bitter. Then again, in the 17th century a type of juice made from acorns was fed to alcoholics to cure them of their addiction!
Lightly roasting after drying, the acorn kernels can be whizzed in a food processor to make an acorn-nut, rather than a peanut, butter, sounds easy and interesting so we went back for another handful to have a try - we’ll see!
Walking back home after a long shift was another thought, but a wee glass of red from the Waiting Room fortified us for our hike home! Turning off at the Legion we joined the park footpath to the high school. Here we heard our first owl, behind us at the park, a loud ‘Too Wit’, a male Tawny Owl calling.
Just at the right-angle junction, before joining the side of the Bluidy Burn, a Barn or Screech Owl flew across the path in front of us; silent and ghostly; he dipped his wings and flew along the side of the hedge listening for prey.
Approaching the Grueldykes turn off, there was a shadow crossed the road in front of us, I quickly clicked on the torch and we were privileged to see a hint of a brush as a fox disappeared into the field. Reaching the bridge at the ford, another male Tawny Owl began calling, with regular ‘Too wit’s’, but it wasn’t until we reached the village that we finally heard his girlfriend reply with her ‘Too Woo’.