Desert Foods for Healthy Living

Acorns

The naturally occurring tannin in acorns help flatten blood sugar peaks after a meal and are one of the most effective traditional foods in controlling diabetes. The Emory Oak (Quercus emoryi), produces acorns that are far less bitter than those produced by other oaks. Acorns from Emory Oaks require no special processing to eat. Other species produce acorns with a high tannin content that must be leached via boiling or soaking in order to make them edible and less bitter. In the Southwest region acorns are known as bellotas. The best tasting Emory acorns will have a yellow or cream colored meat when shelled.

Bellotas can be gathered in mid-elevations in the Southwest in July and August. After harvesting, thoroughly dry the Bellotas in the sun or on low in the oven for 1 hour. Snap open the shell by rubbing on a metate, a mealing stone used to process grains, or roll over another hard surface. Separate the nutmeat from the broken shells. Most traditional preparations use ground nutmeat, but they can also be consumed as a healthy nut alternative between meals. Store in the refrigerator or freezer, but make sure they are dry—moisture will spoil the nut. They have a natural sweet taste and are delicious in baked goods to satisfy a sweet tooth. Ground acorns can also be added to soups and stews as an alternative thickener to wheat flour. They can be found in Mexican markets or trading posts when in season.

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