Turns out those pesky nuts falling from the sky onto you and your car, and littering the D.C. area ground in late fall, are more important to the planet than you might think.
A new exhibit at the Smith Hall of Art on the campus of George Washington University celebrates the most unlikely of foods: acorns.
“‘Acornucopia’ is a wonderland of earthly acorn delights!” exclaimed artist and educator Shawn Shafner.
Shafner, who is also a graduate student and published author, says the idea to not only look into how to make art using acorns, but also how to sustainably use and dispose of them, came to him a while ago.
‘Acornucopia’ is the fruit of his labor—and it tastes…oaky.
“If you’ve seen me around campus, you’ve probably thought I was crazy, gathering all my acorns for this exhibit,” Shafner joked.
Shafner says ‘Acornucopia’ champions the acorn as an unvalued resource, both as a food source AND the genesis of new life in our ecosystem.
“It’s also a powerful instigator of forests,” he told WTOP.
To boot, Shafner says coming out to GW to see the work can support a good cause.
“We’ve partnered with Tomorrow’s Trees, an initiative of the Potomac Conservancy,” he explained. “Most of the native oak seeds you see here are donated to them.”
Acornucopia also happens to be a ton of fun.
At the exhibit, you can learn how to mash, refine, and cook acorns. You can also engage in a variety of activities like acorn shuffleboard and ink painting. The latter is the result of the murky water left over after cooking tannins out of the acorns—to make them safe for eating. The more you know!
“If you can crack the code, and you’re willing to put in the time to do an awful lot of cracking, then you can know what otherwise the squirrel only knows,” Shafner mused.
‘Acornucopia’ runs Saturday, Dec. 2 at the Smith Hall of Art at GW until 1 p.m. But if you miss it, Shawn says his acorns will be back starting December 6, as part of another exhibit on GW’s campus called ‘(Up)Root(ed).’
(Up)Root(ed) is all about getting in touch with native and indigenous cultures, and will feature an exhibit on native plants—including oak trees.
With 17 different kinds of oaks on GW’s campus, Shawn says he plans to collect more acorns, and have an acorn cookout on December 8.
You can find the invite to “(Up)Root(ed)” here.
Be on the lookout next week for an upcoming episode of WTOP’s ‘Matt About Town’ series too, where WTOP’s Matt Kaufax does his best morning talk show host impersonation—to cook and eat fresh acorns with Shawn!
‘Matt About Town’ airs every Tuesday and Thursday on WTOP, with video pieces on wtop.com.
If you’ve got an idea for a feature story Matt should cover, reach out via the WTOP “contact us” page to submit your idea.
You can also contact Matt directly. His contact information is listed below.