Flour can be produced from several different plant parts. The most common are from grains, from seeds or nuts, and from the inner bark of trees. Probably the simplest and best flour is the pollen of cattails, which requires little in the way of preparation.

With all other plants, the part(s) from which you are going to make the flour needs to be separated out, dried, and ground down. In the case of grains and nuts, separating can be complicated. Grains must be "winnowed" to remove all of the thin husks. This requires rubbing the dried grains to separate the hulls from the grains, then laying the grain out on a large sheet and tossing it in the air, so that the wind carries away the light hulls. Nutmeats can be separated from their shells by placing the crushed nuts in cold water. With most nuts, the meats will float and the shells will sink (as with hickories), or vice versa (as with sunflowers).

After grinding, remove any large fibers still remaining. Flour produced in this way is often still best when mixed with wheat flour. Even so, this can increase the amount of use that you will get from a relatively small amount of flour.

Oak acorns will usually require the final step of leaching* before their flour can be eaten. This requires boiling them in changes of water to remove the bitter tannin* that they contain. Use at least two changes of water, or as many as necessary until the water remains clear.

Plants in this guide that can be used to make flour

Betulaceae - The Birch Family
Black Birch

In an emergency, the inner bark can be dried and ground into flour.

Compositae - The Aster Family
Common Sunflower

Seeds can be dried and ground to flour.

Fagaceae - The Oak Family
All of the nuts and acorns from members of the Oak family are dried and ground in the same manner, but the Oaks themselves must be leached* after being ground but before being consumed.
American Chestnut

After removal of husks and pith, nuts grind down to a pleasing and nutritious flour.

White Oak
Juglandaceae - The Hickory Family

Nuts can be dried and ground into a pleasing flour.

Shagbark Hickory
Leguminosae - The Legume Family
Red Clover

After drying, seeds and flowerheads can be ground into flour that is quite nutrient-rich.

Pinaceae - The Pine Family
The inner bark of these species can be dried and ground down to a nutritious flour. Of them, the pines are the only trees that produce a very palatable flour, so this method should only be used in emergencies.
White Pine
Typhaceae - The Bulrush Family
Common Cattail

Sausage-like flower heads are made up of a protein-rich pollen that can be mixed with wheat flour. Rootstalks are also filled with starch during winter, and flour can be produced by crushing the core of the rootstalks in cold water and separating the starch from the fibers.

Ulmaceae - The Elm Family
Slippery Elm

The mucilaginous* inner bark can be dried and ground to produce a healthy flour.

Except where specifically noted, all text, photographs, and drawings copyright Chris Bersbach and Lisa Leombruni 2002. No part of this page may be reproduced without the express permission of the authors.