Appearance and General Info
Gamble’s Oak, Scrub Oak
The acorn is the nut of the oak tree. The leaves of scrub oak are simple, alternate, and deciduous. Each leaf is comprised of approximately 5-9 rounded lobes, leathery in texture and yellow-green in color. Male and female catkins are produced on the same twig, as the oak is monoecious (possessing male and female flowers on the same plant.) The fruit, or acorns, are round with a shallow cap covering, and may be found single or clumped. The young twigs of the gamble oak stout, reddish brown in color, and covered in a thin hairy layer. Conversely, older twigs tend to be more smooth and darker in color, and the terminal buds are clustered, with distinct overlapping scales. Similar to the twigs, young bark is thin and light in color, growing rougher, darker and dense with age.
Any galls produced on the tree are strongly astringent and can be used in the treatment of hemorrhages, chronic diarrhea, and dysentery. The bark is analgesic and cathartic. It is great to chew on if you have a tooth ache. A decoction has been used to treat postpartum pain and facilitate delivery of the placenta.
The acorns of the Gambel’s oak may be eaten raw just like any other nut. Because the oak tree is sensitive to early frost, we do not get a bumper crop of acorns every year. It is most likely every three years. So, when the acorns are dropping in August, we gather the nuts off the ground and from the trees and peel the shell away from the white nut. We have to compete with the bugs that also enjoy the acorns. Once peeled, we store them in the freezer throughout the season. We grind them into flour for making sun breads as well as use the flour as a thickening agent in stews. We use the acorns from making nut milks and as the base of our Turtle Acorn Ice Dream. Many other acorns, especially the red oaks have acorns that contain large amounts of tannic acids. These acids need to be leached out before eating. Our Gamble’s oak, a white oak, have significantly less tannins, allowing them to be eaten raw. To leach out the tannins, place the acorns in a mesh bag and leave it in the creek for three days. Another method is to boil the acorns in several changes of water. You can speed up this process by putting wood ashes in the water in which you soak the acorns. The shells of the acorns can be roasted on the stove and used as a coffee substitute and then you can use the acorn milk as the cream in your coffee.