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Harvesting acorns

How to pick them up without a backache, and which acorns to keep

If you have oak trees, you probably dread the acorns that litter the ground.

Aron Flickinger is the manager of the state forest nursery in Iowa. He says there are ways to pick up acorns without getting a backache in the process.

"You can use a simple thing such as a rake, you can rake up the seed. Another option would be a nut wizard. That’s got a roller on it, roll it across the yard, and the seed will get collected inside this sphere," says Flickinger. "And then if you’re looking for even a bigger collection of acorns, then you can look into a bag-a-nut. That’s a machine that will collect a bushel of seed in a basket at a time, and that’s what we use here at the nursery when we’re trying to get a lot of acorns collected in a day."

If you’re going to plant the acorns, wait until a large number of them have fallen. Flickinger says the first 5%-15% of acorns that fall off an oak tree are not as viable as the seeds that come later.

Be sure to collect them within a few days after they’ve fallen because acorns start to dry out as soon as they hit the ground. And, you’ll also be sharing them with hungry critters.

There are a few ways to tell if the acorns are good quality. One is color. With a little experience you’ll recognize the color on the different types of oak seeds. Another way is to cut a few of them open with pruning shears.

"The seed inside, is it still a white or yellowish color? If it’s already turning brown or black, then that shows that the seed is no good, it’s already started to decay," says Flickinger. "Then you can also look at the amount of insect damage that’s been done. So if over half of the seed has already had some insect damage done to it, you want to stay away from that seed too."

As soon as possible after harvest, dunk your acorns in water. This cleans them off and helps retain moisture. Healthy seeds will typically sink to the bottom. Insect-damaged acorns will float.

One family's tips for acorn harvest and processing

Pick up those acorns easily with the nutwizard or the bag-a-nut

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