The picture is an airphoto of the Constance and Buckham's Bay pennisula in the Ottawa River located at the northern edge of the city of Ottawa, Canada's capital. The Red Oak Forest dominates the perimeter of the pennisula, aka Constance Bay Village. There are many hundreds of mature red oaks in the village producing probably scores of hectolitres of acorn crop annually. (Our thanks to Nancy Atchison for the pic.)
Well, as we write the acorn gathering is well underway around the Allbirch Road and Acorn Crescent corner. Neighbours think this acorn oil business is a great idea. Posters are up around the Bay inviting village participation. The Community Centre kitchen has been suggested for production testing. The acorn needs to be dried pending oil extraction testing. Maybe we can see a full report by Winter Solstice 2008?
As of Tuesday, September 30, 2008 we had gathered and floated about 30 kg of prime, last-to-fall acorns. We figure that 100 kg will be enough, so we have a ways to go.
Wake up call! The acorns kept falling well into October. We are still gathering on Wednesday, October 22, 2008! These acorns are even better: bigger, heavier, beautifully marked with dark brown vertical stripes on a light brown background. Seems the acorns will all drop before the leaves begin the fall. This would be convenient, as then we would have to separate the laaves from the acorns. The leaves, when they do come down, can be gathered and put back into the forest, or into our own composters, or as a last resort bagged up for city composting.
BTW, besides the oil, the leached kernel makes an excellent acorn flour. We will try this, too. We understand that the shell can be used as well. So, there are oil, kernel and shell products to investigate.
Back to the how-to's of the experiment.
There are four steps to getting to the oil and other products.
Step 1: Gather the acorns from the ground when those falling are mostly brown. These are ripe and the best the tree will produce. Here are some ideas on how to gather (lots of room for innovation, so don't be shy - experiment)...
Step 2: Process the acorns to select the usable ones and reject the rest. The all may look good on the outside but have problems with the kernel inside. Drying and float testing are the best methods. Here how this works (lots of room for improving the method, so try out your own ideas)...
Step 3: Extract the oil, retain the flour. This the heart of the experiment, so we have set up the Allbirch Test Centre under the direction of Vera Jones. Bring your dried, floated acorn haul to her. These will be cracked, pressure washed/dried and high-graded. We will assay the kernel for oil three ways: by chemical extraction, by boiling and by pressing. We need help here to get set up...
Step 4: The leached, oil-depleted kernel can be ground into meal or flour for baking. Empty shells make good mulch or compost. Nothing wasted, eh! We will work on these products as well.
Canada Nutculture Association, Ottawa, Canada: "Progress through Research & Development"