With the term acorn we refer to the nut of the oak tree, (genera Quercus in Europe, Lithocarpus in Asia and Northern America and Cyclobalanopsis in Asia, in the family Fagaceae). This fruit is enclosed in a tough, leathery shell and borne in a cup-shaped cupule. It has a cylindrical shape and it usually contains a single seed. The morphological features of this nut represent an important diagnostic element in order to determine the exact tree genus.
Acorns are the most important food in the diet of a great number of animals, such as: birds (ex. Jays, pigeons, some ducks and many species of woodpeckers) and little mammals (ex. Mice and squirrels). Other medium and large mammals as pigs, bears and deer also consume acorns. In autumn, for example, this nut can represent the 25% of their diet. All acorns (percentages vary from species to species) contain large amounts of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, as well as minerals and vitamins.
Long time ago they were used to feed pigs because of their high nutritive value.
Acorn (in Spanish bellota, which gives the name to the Iberian ham) is the principal food of Iberian pigs’ diet. These are the animals used to produce the worldwide famous Jamón Pata Negra de Bellota (Pata Negra Ham). This ham is regarded as the finest of all jamón ibérico because of the special acorn diet (from October to January) of the black foot pigs from which it is produced. It is just the acorn that confer a unique flavor and taste to this product.
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