Taste of Oak Harbor

Writers use terms like “oakiness,” “grassiness” and “tannins” to describe a wine’s aroma and flavor. Usually, old casks the wine aged in transferred tastes to the liquid.

Friday afternoon, I tasted oakiness, grassiness and tannins but I didn’t taste any wine. The flavors and aromas came directly from the oak itself.

At a workshop on Garry oaks held at Cornet Bay, Melissa Duffy provided a bowl of Garry oak gruel.

Duffy, a member of Washington Native Plant Society and an ardent oakophile, prepared the dish from Garry oak acorns she’d frozen.

Native Americans relied on acorns as a food for feasts and during times of famine.

Duffy said the acorns were better hot but even at room temperature, I enjoyed the nutmeats.

The hash of pieces gleamed like moist brown sugar. Its texture resembled rough peanut butter. I scooped up a bit of oak and rolled it around in my mouth. I felt no sugar crystals or dry nuts.

Instead, the acorns melted across my tongue. The initial taste was of fresh-cut lawn — moist and grassy. A flash of sweetness followed: just a hit of dilute sugar water. Tannins brought a dry finish.

Deep-frying or a grating of Parmesan could have enhanced acorns.

But added cooking technique or ingredient would have masked the subtle taste of the Pacific Northwest.

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