Acorns, the fruit of our native woodland species of the Quercus genus (such as holm oaks, cork oaks and oaks) have been used for human consumption in all the territories where human presence coincided with the natural distribution of these species, in temperate, sub-tropical and tropical climate regions throughout the Northern Hemisphere, explains a joint statement from the two organisations.
From the far west of Eurasia to North and Central America, there are references to the consumption of acorns by countless cultures. In Portugal, its consumption has been mentioned in written sources since the Roman period, but archaeological remains show that its role as a food resource dates back many millennia.
And it is precisely the species of the Quercus genus that dominate our native woodland. Around 36 per cent of the forest area is covered by keratinous trees, and the Quercus species has the status of national tree, as it is the species with the greatest distribution throughout the continent, in addition to its importance at various levels, such as economically through the cork industry.
Quercus and LandraTech are therefore proposing 5 measures to valorise acorns for human consumption:
- Acorn products should have reduced VAT (6%). Currently, the rate of VAT that can be charged (23 per cent) on flour and peeled acorns jeopardises competition with other similar food products;
- Certification for food use of acorns. Only the acorn of Quercus rotundifolia (holm oak) is listed by EFSA (European Food Security Agency) for human consumption. The acorn of Q. robur is only listed as a food supplement by the EFSA. Other relevant species such as Q. coccifera and Q. suber are only listed as food supplements in Italy;
- Support in identifying relevant certifications that can be implemented to increase the value of acorn products from native species on the market, and raising awareness among forest owners of the advantages of implementing them. For example, "organic production", "gluten-free", "zero kilometre". And others related to origin (Portuguese product) or sustainable/regenerative forest management;
- Investment in projects aimed at studying the acorn production cycles of the most representative endemic species of our flora (harvest and counter-harvest years) and their relationship with climatic cycles, optimising the acorn harvesting process with a view to simplicity and efficiency, as well as technologies for acorn conservation, predicting years of abundance and scarcity;
- Promote awareness-raising and training activities, suited to each type of keratinous stand, to enable forest managers to do this properly, in order to create more productive woodlands that are more resistant to pests and forest fires and more accessible for harvesting.
OakFood, the project that aims to (re)valorise Portuguese acorns
Portugal is an exceptional producer of acorns, mainly due to its extensive Montado that runs across the country from north to south. It is estimated that trees of the Quercus genus represent around 36 per cent of the entire national forest, followed by the Eucalyptus genus, which occupies 26 per cent.