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Old 05-27-2010, 07:23 PM   #14
AmigoKumeyaay
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The amazing acorn, food for eons of indigenous peeps

Acorn - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Use and management by Native Americans

Acorns were a traditional food of many indigenous peoples of North America, but served an especially important role in California, where the ranges of several species of oaks overlap, increasing the reliability of the resource.

Acorns, unlike many other plant foods, do not need to be eaten or processed right away, but may be stored for long time periods, as done by squirrels. In years that oaks produced many acorns, Native Americans sometimes collected enough acorns to store for two years as insurance against poor acorn production years.

After drying them in the sun to discourage mold and germination, Native American women took acorns back to their villages and cached them in hollow trees or structures on poles, to keep acorns safe from mice and squirrels. These acorns could be used as needed. Storage of acorns permitted Native American women to process acorns when convenient, particularly during winter months when other resources were scarce.

Women shelled and pulverized those acorns that germinate in the fall before those that germinate in spring. Because of their high fat content, stored acorns can become rancid. Molds may also grow on them.

Native North Americans took an active and sophisticated role in management of acorn resources through the use of fire, which increased the production of acorns and made them easier to collect[citation needed]. The deliberate setting of light ground fires killed the larvae of acorn moths and acorn weevils that have the potential to infest and consume more than 95% of an oak's acorns, by burning them during their dormancy period in the soil.

Fires released the nutrients bound in dead leaves and other plant debris into the soil, thus fertilizing oak trees while clearing the ground to make acorn collection faster and easier. Most North American oaks tolerate light fires, especially when consistent burning has eliminated woody fuel accumulation around their trunks. Consistent burning encouraged oak growth at the expense of other trees that are less tolerant of fire, thus keeping landscapes in a state in which oaks dominated.

Oaks produce more acorns when they are not in close competition with other oaks for sunlight, water and soil nutrients. The fires tended to eliminate the more vulnerable young oaks and leave old oaks which created open oak savannas with trees ideally spaced to maximize acorn production.
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