treenuts.ca
Promoting the growing of tree nuts in Canada, and their use.
Email acorn@treenuts.ca
Canada Flag

StarsCanada Tree Nuts Food Uses

According to http://dnausers.d-n-a.net/dnetIULU/fad/plants.txt

Alan Hall, in his book 'The Wild Food Trail Guide, new and expanded edition.' New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976, identifies a number of enticing food uses for wild (or urban grown tree nuts, whether native, naturalised or cultivars) North American tree nuts. (There are many non-food uses, just as valuable.)

Here is our synposis, with additional comments of our own.

TREE NUT COOKING OILS, MILKS AND BUTTERS
A number of North American nut trees have readily extractable oil. Cooking oils and butters are an important staple food, and, while early colonists relied on animal fats for this purpose, the Indians made use of the nuts listed here. One of their most highly valued oils was extracted from the Shagbark Hickory (these tree nuts often were used to make 'nut milk'. Oils can be extracted from nuts by crushing and then boiling them in salty water. The salt water traps any tannins, raises the boiling point for better extraction, yet does not taint the oil. The oil will rise to the top of the water and can be skimmed off. Skimming is easier if the liquid is poured into a narrow container; this will give the oil greater depth and reduce the likelihood of getting a lot of water mixed in with the oil. Or, if you have an oil press, roast the nuts first then press. This double to amount of oil expressed. For nut butters, use a food processor or specialty machine. The nuts to try are Acorns of the red oak group, Beech, Black Walnut, Butternut, Hazelnut, and the various Hickories.

TREE NUT FLOUR AND MEAL
A half dozen kinds of nuts can be ground into flour. They provide nutritious, flavorful products that can be used to prepare excellent pancakes, muffins, breads, etc.
Among the best wild flours are those prepared from nut meats. All flour require some preparation, but nut meats are among the easiest, particularly acorns. Acorns can usually be collected in great abundance, the shells are easily opened. and the meat is one large piece. And while the bitter tannin must be removed, you can let a stream or faucet do the work. Other nuts have the advantage of providing flour and cooking oils at the same time smashing the nut and boiling it to separate the nut meat (which is subsequently ground into flour) from the oil and shells is often easier than picking out pieces of nut meal for immediate eating.
Grinding is another problem. In the field, about the only way it can be accomplished is between two rocks. The quality of the flour depends on its fineness. A knife-type kitchen blender works well for small quantities and hand flour mills may be used.
Try Beech, Black Walnut, Butternut, Hazelnut, Hickory and specially Acorn.

TREE NUT COFFEE AND TEA SUBSTITUTES
Try Beech nuts or Acorn shells, in the fall. They lack caffeine and fail to provide that slight "eye opening" stimulation coffee drinkers usually look forward to in the morning. T'is still a passably good beverage.

TREE NUTS FOR EATING 'OUT OF HAND'
Try the following nuts: Beech, Black Walnut, Butternut, Hazelnut, and Acorns of the White Oak Group. Acorns vary in tannin content (the bitter flavour) from species to species and even from tree to tree - taste test as you begin to collect. Any bitterness - then leach first. The other nuts can be eaten directly, or roasted first for more flavour.

TREE NUT WINE
Imagine a wine made from oak leaves: a spring wine made from newly emerging leaves and a summer wine made from the mature green leaves. Any oak species will do.

TREE NUT VINEGAR
Sweet tree saps are a prime source of vinegar. The simplest way to make your own vinegar is to start a yeast fermentation in the sap, open to the air, but covered enough to keep dirt out
Black Walnut, Butternut and Hickory are the best candidates.

TREE NUT CONDIMENTS
Ketchups and pickles are well-received condiments made from tree nuts, such as immature (aka 'green') black walnut and butternut.

TREE NUT SYRUP AND SUGAR
The best sources of tree nut sugar and syrup are the spring saps of Black Walnut, Butternut and the various Hickories.

TREE NUT CONFECTIONS
When chocolate had not yet become widely available, candied plants were the popular confections. Acorns (from either the White Oak or Red Oak Group, after tannin leaching) were used as candies by boiling them in a sugar syrup until they were thoroughly saturated, allowing the sugar to harden (an oak 'maron glacée'). And rolling in granulated sugar to cover the sticky surface.

LEARN MORE ABOUT TREE NUT FOODS in our treenuts.ca cookbooks: black walnut; ten tree nuts; and tree nut scones.


Canada Nutculture Association, Ottawa, Canada: "Progress through Research & Development"