Monday, November 5, 2012

Acorns and Principles for Living

A Korean dish made from acorn meal. Yum, yum!

We have a number of oak trees on our suburban lot and, as a consequence, we have a number of acorns that fall this time of year. I know I should be a naturalist for making such a connection. In fact, the acorn showers we have are so bad that if I have to do something in the yard under the trees, I wear a hard hat. No kidding. An acorn, as small as it is, can leave a mark when it falls a distance of 40 or 50 feet and impacts even my hard head. Here's the math involved that I carefully worked out:

Let's see, the weight of an acorn is typically about  2.9 to 6.8 grams, or on average, 4.9 grams. The formula for an object dropped from a height, let's say 50 feet is h = -16t ^2 + s where h is the final  height, t is the time in motion in seconds and s is the initial height. (Are you impressed that I am so mathematical? So am I!) So, if an acorn is dropped from 50 feet, its time to the ground is 0= -16t^ +  50. that gives us a time to fall of  1.8 seconds. Ignoring air resistance (because I don't want to fool with it), the velocity of the acorn as it hits the ground about 58 feet per second, or about 33 miles an hour. Not too shabby for a lazy little acorn! It hits whatever it hits (the ground, a squirrel, a car, my head) with enough force to hurt. (Technically, the amount of force is 0.048069 newton, more or less. Now you know.)

Anyhow, with so many acorns falling, I got to wondering about acorns. I know that mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow, which is a kind of life principle whether it applies to businesses or my weight through my lifetime. I found out that a lot of different animals eat acorns, including squirrels, which is why we have so many squirrels around our neighborhood. I tried putting out bird food for a while, but the squirrels ate it. I used "squirrel proof" feeders and found that there is no such thing as  squirrel-proof feeder--squirrel resistant is about as good as it gets.

People eat acorns too, but that doesn't mean I'm going to start fighting the squirrels for a taste. They are used as food in several cultures.Acorn meal can be used in some recipes calling for grain flours. 
In Korea, an edible jelly named dotorimuk is made from acorns, and dotori guksu are Korean noodles made from acorn flour or starch. In the 17th century, a juice extracted from acorns was administered to habitual drunkards to cure them of their condition or else to give them the strength to resist another bout of drinking. Or to swear off drinking so they didn't have to drink acorn juice ever again.
Acorns have frequently been used as a coffee substitute, notably by the Confederates  in the Civil War and the Germans during World War II (when it was called Ersatz coffee).
Unlike many other plant foods, acorns do not need to be eaten or processed right away, but may be stored for a long time, as done by squirrels., Native Americans sometimes collected enough acorns to store for two years as insurance against poor acorn production years.Acorns were a traditional food of many indigenous peoples of North America, but especially those in California,,where several species of oaks overlap, increasing the reliability of the resource.
After drying them in the sun to discourage mold and germination, women took acorns back to their villages and cached them in hollow trees or structures on poles, to keep them safe from mice and squirrels.

So, I suppose you could make a little acorn meal and whomp up some acorn meal muffins. If your dinner guests don't like them, you can always feed them to the squirrels. 

(Information on acorn recipes and more information on acorns in general from )

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