Plant of the day: coast live oak

Scattered across a grassy slope are twisty-trunked, round-topped, beautiful oak trees. Get closer and look at the leaves–if they are cup-shaped and slightly shiny on the  underside this is coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia)–another of California’s best trees.

The acorns are edible once the unpalatable, bitter tannins have been leached out. Acorns were historically a major food source for local Native American tribes, and still are a major part of the food chain for wildlife. People generally remove tannins by soaking the nut in water (or a running stream). But some tribes would plant the acorn in a bog and wait until it sprouted in the spring–a system which apparently got rid of most tannins but preserved more nutrients than the water method.

Acorns can be eaten whole, or ground into a floury powder for cooking. Roasted acorns can be used as a coffee substitute.

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