Friday Favorites: A Fall Harvest of Acorns and Other Tree Nuts Used by Indigenous People

History is a trail that was walked by our ancestors. For us to know it and them, we must retrace it, look at it honestly and perceive it realistically, then tell it factually. History is meaningful and multidimensional with this process.” Lakota author, historian, and storyteller Joseph M. Marshall III who was born and raised on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

During Native American Heritage Month, MHHM looks to its historic garden for inspiration from the indigenous people who once lived on the land which is now part of Morristown, New Jersey. Walnuts, hickory nuts, chestnuts, beechnuts, and acorns were collected, eaten, and preserved by most indigenous groups including the Lenni Lenape, part of the Delaware nation. Tree nuts were mainly collected in October and November and stored in storage pits with dried meat and fish for the winter.

Lenape women learned how to extract and collect cooking oil from tree nuts by crushing and cooking them in boiling water. They also learned how to remove the bitter taste from acorns by roasting or crushing them and rinsing them. From this, Lenape women made porridge and flour for bread.

The word pecan, from the hickory tree family, is derived from the Algonquin word “pacane” which means “nuts requiring a stone to crack.” It is believed that indigenous people were the first to purposefully plant these trees, the only major tree nut native to North America. More than 500 varieties of pecans exist and many are named for indigenous people groups including the Cheyenne, Choctaw, Mohawk, and Shawnee.

Listen to an adapted Native American tale of The Boy Who Dreamed of an Acorn by Leigh Casler:

For more information about foods made by indigenous people from tree nuts and other resources, visit the Woodland Indian Educational Programs Website:

Several different types of brown nuts.

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