Are acorns, traditionally eaten by California Native Americans, considered paleo, or are they like grains, a food that we are not adapted to eat, but that can nourish us in the absence of more ideal foods?
Kind of depends on how you define paleo.
In a strict sense, as in "a food consumed prior to the neolithic age", then yes, they are paleo. They existed and were consumed once people figured out how to process them. Unfortunately, grains also were consumed prior to the neolithic (though this should be unsurprising, given that organized agriculture had to come from somewhere), and were available to eat. So the strict paleo definition doesn't really help. Lots of stuff was eaten.
A looser paleo definition of, "food consumed throughout evolutionary history" would also not exclude them but lead you to conclude that they were at best a marginal food, and shouldn't be consumed in quantity. Rather, one should focus on the widespread staples of meat, meat, meat and vegetables.
In a modern pragmatic health sense, as in, "food that's worth eating because it's optimally nutrient dense and not harmful", then no, probably not. Why pick up nuts, pound the crap out of them, soak them for hours and finally bake them into something when you can just eat a steak?
So the answer depends on how you view paleo. If it's a strict definition, then you get one answer. If it's a heuristic you use to make dinner, then it's another. And if it's a "what's optimal", then you get yet another answer.
Last year I processed some for consumption. If you really really love spending your time grinding nuts and then soaking them and then grinding them and then spilling the soaking solution on your shirt, staining it forever....then go ahead. They probably won't harm you once they have undergone the detoxification process. But there are so many better foods out there. I suspect hunter-gatherers only ate acorns because they overshot their environment's carrying capacity and needed more calories.
Hm... if acorns are toxic to humans, they aren't to pigs apparently. The most expensive (and deeee-lish!) jamón ibérico de bellota (Spanish ham) is made from pigs that forage on acorns prior to slaughter. As far as I know, jamón ibérico is only cured with salt and contains no nitrate/nitrite.
That any potential food requires hours or days of prep to make it fit for human consumption kind of makes you go "why?", unless you're starving and there is no other alternative of course.
Btw check out how cashews are processed and made fit for consumtion. It's a long and elaborate process. In their natural state, they are so toxic that those handling them must wear gloves for protection.
Acorns are nuts, from the same family as filbert, chestnuts and beechnuts - the Fagaceae. They are edible but require lots of processing to be so. Certainly a lot of the Indians that ate them were hunter-gatherers, so presumably they could have at least have been processed by late paleo groups.
I wouldn't bother eating them either, but I have more options than your average hunter gather. Oaks of many species are very wide spread, and produce huge crops, so for our ancestors, they were probably worth the time. Acorn leaching bee, with a dance afterwords.
I've been told that acorn pancakes are great. FWIW
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