How to Dry, Paint and Preserve Fresh Acorns
October, 2014 · By Coryanne Ettiene
I’m a tad squirrely when it comes to decorating this Fall thanks to the dozen or so huge Oak trees within arms reach of our house. The sky is literally falling; I can’t go 2 feet without stepping on either a fallen Oak Nut or Pecan … the squirrels have all but devoured every possible Pecan, leaving a blanket of acorns underfoot. I’m not sure why I never noticed how fabulous they are, how delicate they can be and how stunning they look. I’ve seen countless photos on Pinterest with them dark and glossy, stunning in itself, but I much prefer them as natural as possible — matt, weathered and in a variety of muted brown tones.
I’d never dried acorns until the Fall, so I set about reading everything I could on how to dry them, not just for this fall, but for years to come. It would seem that everyone has something different to say about how to dry acorns, and very few talk about those bright big green ones that the squirrels stay clear of. Drying acorns, like any drying process takes time…loads of time. The most time consuming part is weeding through your bundle of acorns looking for any that have cracks or wholes in them — if I had it to do over again, I would have done this as I was foraging for them (but you live and learn). Whilst drying takes time, it is effortless if you have a kitchen timer to help you keep track of the rotation. The smaller the acorn, the quicker it will dry; the bigger or greener the acorn, the longer it will take.
I was so smitten with my acorns, that I dabbled in a little painting experiment. I knew that I did not want to paint them all, but wanted a splash of color somewhere to help a few stand out. I much prefer the white washed hats to the full acorn being painted — it gives it a dusting of snow look that will transition well into our winter decor; in the mean time, I’ve got bowls of them littered around the house with little splashes of pink and white that I am gradually removing to revel just the white dusted caps and natural matt acorns.
- Weed out all the bad acorns; anything with a crack or hole.
- Rinse your acorns in cool water and gently remove any dirt or debris, then soak them in a big pot of water for an hour. The water line should be about an inch above the acorn line. Some will float, these acorns are very dry already, scoop those off the top and roast those on a separate baking tray.
- Transfer your acorns to a drying mat or towel, and allow them to air dry for up to 2 hours. You can speed this process up by drying each acorn by hand. Joy.
- Separate the dried acorns according to the floaters, the small brown ones, the large brown ones and the green ones. Each batch should rest on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and then cooked at 220F until dry. The smaller ones and the floaters will dry quickly — about an hour. The bigger ones will take 2-4 hours, and the green ones will, quite frankly, take all day. Every 30-45 minutes, use a wooden spoon to stir the tray and rotate the acorns so they dry evenly. If you are roasting green acorns, be prepared for the caps to fall off as they shrink. In fact, most of the acorns will shrink, that is the nature of drying.
- Once dry, allow them to cool at room temperate. Once cool, spray them with a varnish (I opted for a Matte Varnish) and allow that to dry before painting. I doubled up on the varnish and re-varnished the acorns I painted, but you can skip this over protective step.
- For the white washed cap I used a small children’s paint brush and blended a bright white and cream acrylic paint. And lightly, rather half heartedly, painted the caps. I was not going for perfect, I wanted distressed. There are a few fully coated ones in the photo above to give you an idea of how different they look.
- For the painted acorn body, I embraced muted rose by blending pink and cream acrylic paint together, and used a craft sponge brush to apply a thick coat of paint. If I do this again, I will likely use a paper towel and blot the paint on for a distressed look.