Acorns are nuts that form on mature oak trees. The older the tree, the more acorns produced, and trees that are 70 or 80 years old can potentially produce thousands of these tree nuts. While many people recognize the acorn by its decorative uses for fall festivities, there is more to the acorn than just a pretty wooden shell.
Since different species of oak trees exist, acorns come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, depending on the type of tree they were produced by. For instance, the Northern Red Oak tree produces acorns that are more egg-shaped and have a shallower, saucer-shaped cup, whereas some white oak trees produce acorns that are stubby and look like they have warty scales.
Certain animal species rely on acorns as a food staple, such as squirrels, woodpeckers and deer. Some animals pick and eat the acorns directly off the trees, while others wait until the acorns fall to the ground. Humans eat acorns, too, but only after acorns are roasted, as acorns naturally produce tannins, which can be toxic if the tannins are too highly concentrated.
Acorns to Oaks
Acorns are used as seeds to grow oak trees. When you want to use an acorn as an oak tree seed it is important to know that acorns must not dry out or else they will not germinate. Some secrets to keeping acorns from drying out are to store the them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Always keep acorns in the shade after you pick them, and do not freeze them to keep them extra cold. Acorns need 1,000 hours of dormancy in low temperatures, so leave the acorns in your refrigerator throughout the winter season if you collected the acorns in the fall.
In 1 ounce of dried acorns you can get 2 percent of your total daily calcium and iron intake. Acorns are also a good source of folate, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. They are naturally low in sodium, provide small amounts of protein and do not contain cholesterol. Since they are higher in calories and carbohydrates, you do not want to eat too many of these roasted nuts, but rather reserve them for treats around Thanksgiving and the fall season.
References and ResourcesChicago Tribune; Facts About Acorns; September 2009
Wild Birds: How to Grow Your Own Oak Trees
Nutrition Data: Dried Acorns