The Ozark Chinquapin Foundation - Saving an American Treasure

Processing the Ozark Chinquapin Nut - Weights and Rates

By A. J. Hendershott

One day the Ozark chinquapin will be restored to the land, and when it is people will need to know what it takes to gather and prepare a chinquapin nut treat. To research this I obtained Ozark chinquapin nuts from Stephen Bost that were from a low resistance tree. This allowed experimentation on the nuts without jeopardizing any restoration efforts.

Bost sent me two batches of nuts. One bag he selected for a nut shell rotting experiment due to the nut's poor condition, and the better batch was intended for cracking and food preparation. First, I cracked the nuts intended for rotting purposes as practice and comparison. Consequently most of the nut meat on this batch of nuts was good, with less than 20% of the nuts bad. This allowed me to practice. When I cracked a bad nut I simply discarded it with the pile of shells. This factored into the time it took to shell the nuts but not a lot. Then I moved on to nuts that were in better condition and cracked them. Only three nuts from the good batch had meat that required discarding.

On each trial I weighed the nuts and recorded time spent for the cracking and nut meat removal effort. Following this I weighed the nut meat to determine the shell and nut meat ratio.

I found that these nuts weigh an average of 0.8 grams (0.03 ounces) each. Each nut has an average of 34% of its mass composed of the shell and 66% of it composed of nut meat. This is comparable to an acorn's composition. So if I collect a pound of chinquapin nuts I can expect to get 64% of that weight in nut meat.

When I utilized past prime nuts, I discovered it took me slightly over 73 minutes to shell and remove 54.4 grams (1.9 oz.) of chinquapin nut meat. This yielded a rate of 1.2 grams (0.04 oz.) of nut meat per minute or roughly 74 grams (2.6 oz.) of nut meat in an hour.

With this experience I moved on to the batch that had better potential to produce good condition nut meat and I was not disappointed. In this trial I spent 28.5 minutes to obtain 44.7grams (1.6 oz.) of nut meat. That yielded an improvement of 1.6 grams per minute or 95 grams (3.3 oz.) per hour.

Two factors account for difference in production rates. First, I got better at cracking and processing. Second, there were fewer bad nuts that added unproductive time to my efforts.
When I compared the Ozark chinquapin with other wild nuts in North America I discovered not all nuts possess the same difficulties or rewards for processing them.

In Wood and O'Brien's book Prehistory of Missouri they report a study of prehistoric Native American conducted experimental archeology projects where an assortment of nuts were processed by cracking and picking the raw nut meat out. The results were interesting and I inserted my results for the Ozark chinquapin for comparison:

From this you can see that hickories are a lot of work to process by cracking and picking out the nut meat. Hazelnuts provide more nut meat for the effort than any other native nut examined. Ozark chinquapins are fairly easy to process and provide a fair amount of nut meat despite their smaller size.

Measurements for Cooking

One day the Ozark Chinquapin will be restored. When that happens people will utilize this Ozarks treasure in recipes, and will need to know some handy conversion rates.

Through direct measurement I was able to determine that 1 cup of Ozark chinquapin nut meat would weigh 164 g or 5.7 oz. My experimental rate for raw nut cracking indicates it would take over an hour and a half to process enough chinquapins to yield a cup of nut meat.

Using the SGS North America Analysis of the Ozark chinquapin nut in 2011, that cup of nut meat would possess 24.9 g (0.9 oz.) of protein, 22.9 g (0.8 oz.) of fat in the form of oil, 100.2 g (3.5 oz.) of carbohydrates, and 8.6 g (0.3 oz.) of fiber. All those carbohydrates explain why the Ozark chinquapin had such a sweet flavor.

I see the next step as doing the same experiment with roasted or boiled chinquapins. This experiment would provide insight on what method might be most efficient for processing chinquapins.

The Ozark chinquapin has a growing chance for survival. People who adore its fruits will one day need to spare a little time to gather the nuts, a little more to process them and then appreciate and savor their resulting flavor in a well-earned treat.