gland (French), Eichel (German), ghianda (Italian), bellota (Spanish), bolota (Portuguese), zholud (Russian), xiang guo (Chinese)
(Quercus sp. – Family Fagaceae)
Acorns are produced by oak trees and mainly regarded as feed for animals. However, man has also eaten them since prehistoric times with some estimating that more acorns were consumed than wheat. Of the hundreds of species of oak around the world, only a few yield acorns suitable for humans to eat. The oak which produces the best and sweetest acorns is the ilex (holm or holly) oak (Q. Ilex var rotundifolia, formerly ballota) which grows all around the Mediterranean and western Asia but is also common in Spain and Portugal where acorns are eaten much like chestnuts.
Several native American species bear acorns that were of some importance in the diet of the indigenous peoples and early settlers. These acorns provided less protein and carbohydrates than barley or wheat, but much more fat. Since acorns have remarkable keeping properties, no doubt the fat helped to tide them over the long cold winter months. The best American variety is said to be from the California black oak (Q. kellogii), which has an outstanding flavour and a gelatin-like consistency when cooked, which is a desirable quality for good acorn mush. But, a truly skilled mush-maker, would combine the acorns from several varieties of trees. Because of their good keeping qualities, cakes made from them were used by the early Indians, as well as being mixed into their pemmican.