Acorns (American Indians Ready Reference)
Article abstract: Acorns provided a starchy food staple for various Indian groups.
Acorns, the nuts of oak trees, average 40-50 percent carbohydrates, 3-4 percent protein, and 5-10 percent fat, making them a nutritious foodstuff providing about 168 calories per ounce. This abundant and easily collected nut became the dietary mainstay for various Indian groups, particularly in the Northeast and California.
The earliest unequivocal evidence of the dietary use of acorns comes from the Lamoka culture of New York, probably around 3500 b.c.e. Archaeological sites in Massachusetts dating from a millennium later also have produced clear evidence of the eating of large quantities of acorns. By the historic period, however, Northeastern Indians were using acorns only sparingly as food.
In California, major use of acorns began later, around 1000 b.c.e., but it ultimately was more important, often forming the bulk of the diet. Six species of acorn were gathered, and families commonly obtained enough in one season to last them two years. The acorns typically were stored in baskets or wooden granaries, some as much as 5 feet in diameter and 8 feet high. To reduce infestation by vermin, the base of a granary might be painted with pitch, or fragrant laurel leaves might be included. The acorns were ground as needed, and bitter tannin was leached out by washing the acorn meal repeatedly with hot water. The acorn meal was boiled into...
(The entire section is 250 words.)
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