Oak trees have alternate leaves and acorn fruits. There are
two main groups of oaks: red and white. The red oak group has
leaves with bristles and smooth bark in the upper part of the
tree. Red oak acorns take 2 years to mature. The white oak group
has leaves without bristles and a rough bark in the upper portion
of the tree. White oak acorns mature in 1 year.
Habitat and Distribution
Oak trees are found in many habitats throughout North America,
Central America, and parts of Europe and Asia.
All acorns are edible, but often contain large quantities
of bitter substances. White oak acorns usually have a better
flavor than red oak acorns. Gather and shell the acorns. Soak
red oak acorns in water for 1 to 2 days to remove the bitter
substance. You can speed up this process by putting wood ashes
in the water in which you soak the acorns. Boil the acorns or
grind them into flour and use the flour for baking. You can use
acorns that you baked until very dark as a coffee substitute.
Tannic acid gives the acorns their bitter taste. Eating an
excessive amount of acorns high in tannic acid can lead to kidney
failure. Before eating acorns, leach out this chemical.
Oak wood is excellent for building or burning. Small oaks
can be split and cut into long thin strips (3 to 6 millimeters
thick and 1.2 centimeters wide) used to weave mats, baskets,
or frameworks for packs, sleds, furniture, etc. Oak bark soaked
in water produces a tanning solution used to preserve leather.
Acorns from different oak trees vary widely in how bitter
they are. Some just aren't worth the trouble, especially in a
survival situation, when you don't have several days to process
I have successfully stopped diarrhea by drinking a tea made
from the twigs of an oak tree. Pieces of oak bark have been chewed
to stop a toothache. The quercin in the bark is said to strengthen
capillaries, and tannic acid is anti-viral and anti-bacterial.