What cultivars of oaks have been bred for nut consumption?

10 years ago

I'm looking to see if there are any good varieties of oaks available through mail-order that have been bred to produce more edible acorns than what you find in the wild. I see that Oikos and St. Lawrence Nursery offer oaks that are listed as low-tannin varieties, and I was wondering what other sources there are? I'm converting my 1.5 acre yard almost entirely to edible landscaping, and an easily edible acorn would be a major plus. Thanks!

Comments (10)

  • lucky_p
    10 years ago

    I got onto the low-tannin/edible acorn oak bandwagon 15 years or so ago, and still dabble around with 'em some, though I've concentrated more on northern pecan/hickory and persimmon in recent years.

    Ken Asmus at OIKOS is probably one of the principal purveyors of 'edible acorn oaks', and I've got a number of his offerings growing here; some in the ground long enough to be producing reasonable crops of acorns.

    Don Cobb, who's the Northern Nut Growers Assn. Edible Oaks committee chair has had acorns, seedlings, and scionwood available from time to time - and he gifted me with acorns from some of his low-tannin Q.bicolor & Q.macrocarpa selections several years ago.
    My taste evaluations of some of Don's Q.bicolor selections leads me to believe that pure genetics are not the full story on 'sweetness' of white oak group acorns. The 2000 or 2001 crop of Don's "Cobb Sweetie #2' bicolor were very non-bitter - sort of like eating a very bland chestnut - not much flavor, but no bitterness; but the next year's crop was indistinguishable from any other white oak acorn I'd sampled - there was typical bitterness and astringency. So...I suspect that rainfall, growing degree days, etc. may play a significant role in the 'sweetness' of acorns from year to year.
    You might check the NNGA website for more info, and check out the International Oak Society webpage - some members there also have an interest in edible-acorn oaks, and there's usually an 'acorn swap' conducted at the yearly IOS colloquium, wherever it's held.

    While the native Americans did utilize acorns from the white oak group, it seems that members of the red oak group were often preferred - they 'store' better, have higher fat content; the tannins are somewhat different between the two groups, but both must be leached out.
    A friend who makes acorn meal/bread, etc. has indicated that once the white oak acorns sprout, the tannins are 'fixed' and you can't effectively leach them out of the acorn.

    There are several books on preparation of acorns and usage by native Americans - one of the best is "It Will Live Forever, Traditional Yosemite Indian Acorn Preparation" by Beverly Ortiz, as told by Julia Parker. A very interesting read.
    Another one, with plenty of recipes, is "Acorns and Eat 'em", by Suellen Ocean.

    Best Answer
  • ronzone7b
    10 years ago

    I've never encountered an oak cultivar selected for palatable nuts but I can tell you that white oaks usually contain by far less tannin than red oaks. The only exception to this rule that I have encountered is Quercus robur or English oak, the acorns of which can contain such high levels of tannin that the nutmeat actually drips the stuff. On the other hand, Quercus bicolor or Swamp White Oak contains the least tannin of all the acorns I have sampled and I have eaten them with absolutely no pretreatment and found them rather palatable. If you plan on planting an oak for nut harvest I would plant Q. bicolor. An added benefit of Q. bicolor is that it often starts producing acorns much earlier in life than most other oaks and is very tolerant to all sorts of soil and temperature conditions.

  • l_james
    10 years ago

    The Swamp Chestnut Oak - Quercus michauxii - is low in tanin and called "sweet".
    Its leaf resembles that of a true chestnut.

  • denninmi
    10 years ago

    Lucky, U da Man! Nuts too, not just persimmons.

    I'm sure you're right about the tannins in the oaks having a lot to do with the climate any given year. I don't know if you read any of my posts on the various discussions of Aronia, or the comments Don (Jellyman) made about them, but I found the same thing -- dramatic differences from year to year in how edible out of hand these things are. In my last two cool and overall damp years, they were far less tannic than in the hot, dry years, and were pretty much edible out of hand like any berry. In contrast, a few years back when it was hot and dry, they were horrible, even after cooking, just too astringent to be edible in any form. So, I am inclined to agree with you about the weather hypothesis.

    Now, just WHAT specific conditions yield a less or more tannic crop in any particular variety may vary from species to species.

  • Embothrium
    10 years ago

    Facciola, Cornucopia II - A Source Book of Edible Plants (1998, Kampong Publications, Vista) lists

    Quercus acutissima
    Q. acutissima 'Carruthers'
    Q. agrifolia
    Q. alba
    Q. bicolor
    Q. cerris
    Q. dentata
    Q. garryana
    Q. ilex
    Q. ilex ssp. ballota
    Q. lobata
    Q. macrocarpa*
    Q. macrocarpa 'Ashworth'
    Q. macrocarpa 'Krieder'
    Q. macrocarpa 'Sweet Idaho'
    Q. macrolepis
    Q. muehlenbergii
    Q. palustris
    Q. petraea
    Q. robur
    Q. x schuettei
    Q. stellata
    Q. suber
    Q. lyrata x Q. virginiana
    Q. x sp. (Ooti oak)

    and describes edible use of, gives sources for each.

    *"The acorns of this species are among the most palatable of all"

  • scotjute Z8
    10 years ago

    I've eaten Bur Oak acorns before. Sort of rubbery and tasteless. I will never eat another acorn unless I'm starving. Recommend actually eating some acorns before you plant oaks thinking you are going to eat the acorns if you've never tried them. I'd recommend some other sort of nut tree if you want a nut you can eat.
    That said, all my reading indicated the Chinkapin Oaks had the best tasting acorns.

  • lucky_p
    10 years ago

    I'll have to dig around to try to find it, but somewhere I've got a chart detailing nutritional analyses for a number of different oak species acorns - fat, carbohydrate, protein levels - that sort of thing.
    Seems like I recall that Chinkapin oak(Q.muehlenbergii) had the highest fat content of the white oak group.

  • groem
    9 years ago

    I am looking around for some oak for this reason, figure I would bump this and see is any new info is around.

  • gardener365
    9 years ago

    I just found some information:

    "Oak, Sweet Acorn ( Quercus x deamii )

    An extremely fast growing hybrid Oak of Quercus macrocarpa x muehlenbergii.
    Has potential to grow to 200 feet tall; 80 feet across with trunk diameter of 9 feet
    with extreme age. The foliage looks like that of Quercus prinus ( except somewhat downy below ); is up to 8 inches long and oblong with 7 to 9 lobes per side.
    Hardy from zone 4 to 9."

    Link below - about 4/5ths down the page.


    Here is a link that might be useful: Plants 4 a New Generation: The Mighty Oaks

  • aehrhardt
    9 years ago


    I'm looking for some acorn of Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii).
    I like to make a taste test as suggested.
    Who is selling same (200-1000g) Chinkapin Oak acorn to me ?