Friday, November 2, 2012

The Acorn Year

This is an acorn year.
One of the things I like most about acorn years
is the sound of the acorns dropping from the oaks.
Small pops of sound abound as acorns are released from the trees 
and hit roofs, wooden decks, driveways, and walks. 

After the recent tropical storm,
my husband and I went for a walk.
Dozens and dozens of acorns had been shaken from the trees.
There were small piles of them everywhere. 
So the plop, plop, plop of falling acorns is done for the year.

I decided to do a little research about acorns and oaks,
since they have figured so prominently in folklore;
and in my own life for that matter, since the place I grew up
was the site of an historic oak stand called Winfrey Grove.
Here's an interesting item about oaks and acorns that I found:

In the July 15 - 20, 1709, Issue 33 edition of the British Apollo newspaper,
a  reader wrote the following to a columnist 
who answered subscribers' questions about theology and science:

Q. Suppose a field should be sown with acorns,
after many years they grow to be Oaks,
whether the globe of the earth will be the heavier thereby.
From your subscriber, J. Wheld

A. The elements are continually transform'd
into one another by Condensation and Rarefaction.
So that, what the Lighter Elements loose [sic] by Condensation, 
they may regain by the Rarefaction of the Heavier.
Whence there is no necessary consequence,
that a large Grove of Oaks must make an addition to the Weight of the Earth.
We imagin,  [sic] that you don't suppose,
that they are capable of making the Earth Heavier
in proportion to their own Weight,
since so much of the Substance of the Earth
goes to their Composition.

I concentrated my research on a number of pages of news 
from the database "British Newspapers 1600 - 1900."
The majority of the articles mentioning acorns and oaks
did so in reference to sowing acorns for the production of oak forests.

A large oak tree in the Shire, now surrounded by a commercial area:

According to many stories,
the oak forests were integral for feeding swine, peacocks and other fowl;
and sustenance for squirrels which ensured a food source on two fronts:
it kept the squirrels away from the corn fields 
and fattened up the squirrels for dinner.
On the other hand, mature oaks were an important source of timber 
for building homes, tools, and ships.

Sowing acorns in order to grow stands of oaks 
was a well-respected enterprise in the 17th and early 18th centuries.
People who planted oak  forests--
some are credited with planting thousands and tens of thousands--
 were admired and revered, as many obituaries made clear.

There were also many articles about preserving acorns in wax for later planting. 
Harvesting acorns for human consumption 
wasn't addressed in articles I looked at, 
so I don't think it was considered an important food source by then.

But acorns are edible, 
and I came upon a contemporary blog written by Green Meade.
He provides detailed instructions for harvesting acorns.
He includes a recipe for acorn bread that I would love to try.
Unfortunately, I'm not the kind of girl who would make her own acorn flour.
If I could find a source for the flour, 
I think homemade acorn bread would make a delightful addition to a Thanksgiving meal.
For those of you who have the time and the interest, 
here's the link to Green Meade's blog "Eat the Weeds and Other Things Too":

Bon app├ętit!
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