Sunday, September 10, 2017

Tiny Houses

So, everyone knows that the mighty oak grows from a tiny acorn, right?

Then what the heck are those round fruit-like objects growing on our oak trees? That's the question I asked myself a few years ago when I encountered my first oak gall.

The oak galls (oak apples, oak marbles, gall nuts) are growths found on oak trees. They can be found on leaves or branches and occur when the gall wasp punctures a surface to lay it's eggs. Then the hatched larvae secretes a chemical irritant and the tree forms a gall - a growth or tumor - to protect itself. The gall becomes both food and shelter for the insect inside until the wasp reaches maturity and is able to chew it's way out. Weird but cool.

This morning I noticed a scattering of leaves on the driveway with attached oak galls. Fortunately the goats were not around to see me picking up the green oak leaves - their favorite tasty treat. I picked up a leaf, then another, and another, till finally I looked up. The tree above me was speckled with tiny pink oak galls.

Lo and behold, I found other types of oak galls just by turning over the leaves laying on the ground.


Here's another cool factoid: Oak galls are loaded with tannins (tannic acid) and have been used since the Middle Ages to the 1900's as an ingredient used in making inks and dyes.

I'm not interested in making iron gall ink but I did find a 3-ingredient recipe for a natural dye I could whip up with just a few crushed oak galls, vinegar (or lemon juice), and a bit of rust from rusty nails. That's it. I haven't tried it yet but it sounds easy-peasy and I've started keeping an eye out for the tiny treasures.