Nuts are an important source of protein and fat, both hard to get much of from only fruits and vegetables. For this reason, vegetarians often rely on nuts as a substitute for meat, which is the most common source of protein and fat in the diets of most people.

Nuts can be candied or dried to preserve them. Drying is best done while the nuts are still in their shells, and in a dark, dry, ventilated room. Allow the nuts to sit for several days, then store them in a cool, humid place at around 40 degrees Farenheit.

Most nuts can also be eaten right off the plant, although this is not the case for most oaks. Acorns (the nuts produced by oak trees) contain tannin*, a bitter chemical that is soluble in water. For this reason, acorns, especially those of the red oak family, must be "leached*" before consumption. (for a more in depth discussion of which acorns are more in need of leaching, see the Oak family page)

Leaching simply means boiling acorns, usually after they are chopped or ground, in several changes of water to remove the bitter tannin. Most of the time two changes is plenty, however, it is best to continue changing the water until it boils clear.

Plants in this guide that have edible nuts

Compositae - The Aster Family
Common Sunflower

Seeds are small but many in number and quite tasty. Soak in salt water to flavor.

Fagaceae - The Oak Family
While there are other, non-Oak members of this family for which this is not the case, the Oaks generally must be leached* of the bitter tannin* before consumption. This is less likely to be the case for the White and Swamp Oaks, the acorns of which contain less tannin than the others.
American Chestnut

Nuts are very rare, but if found, remove husks and pith to separate the delicious kernels.

White Oak
Juglanaceae - The Hickory Family
Hickory nuts have a taste not too different from that of walnuts. They make an excellent trailside snack right out of the shell.
Shagbark Hickory

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.