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Oak is an extremely versatile wood. It has played a big part in developing civilization as we know it and it has developed into over 600 varieties of trees depending on the region. The different types of oaks are used for different applications. But there are some general applications for the oak species, so let’s discuss 10 amazing uses of oak.
Oak is used for wine barrels, cosmetic products from oak extract, woodworking, locating and growing truffles, firewood, Viking ships, food for humans, nests for birds, medicine, and food for animals.
1. Wine Barrels And Aging
Many wines are aged in wooden barrels made from oak. Oak is a tight-grained wood with high resistance against water and rot. This makes oak the perfect wood for storing wine, wine barrels made from oak can last for up to 100 years.
The Romans, who discovered that they could use oak for wine barrels instead of clay amphorae also discovered that the wine stored in oak barrels were afforded a softer and smoother taste. The oak wood introduced new tastes to the wine when drank similar to vanilla, caramel, and cinnamon.
Even though we have developed more efficient methods like stainless steel tanks of aging wine, we are still using oak barrels to age quality wines. Other products like whisky and scotch are also being aged in oak barrels.
Oak is one of the most commonly used hardwoods for woodworking. The closed grain, strength, and durability of oaks give it many different applications as lumber used for woodworking. The wood of oak also has great water-resistant capabilities and is highly resistant to insect attacks.
Oak is great for outdoor applications, such as barn siding, building docks, building fences, and generally any situation where the wood needs to be able to withstand environmental stresses.
Oak is also used a lot for indoor applications because of the beautiful and unique look to the grain. Even an untrained eye can tell a piece of oak wood from other species. High-quality furniture such as desks, dinner tables, coffee tables and much more can be made of oak wood.
3. Cosmetic Products Made From Oak Extract
Oak extract is used in many different types of cosmetic products. Oak extract is known to contain a high amount of antioxidants and anti-aging properties for the skin.
Using Oak in cosmetic products is a natural way to source ingredients compared to being artificially made. Oak extract is sourced from well-maintained oak forests.
4. Oak As Firewood
Oak is a great wood to use for firewood. It is a dense hardwood that is found in abundance in North America, parts of Europe, and Asia. Dense woods like Oak burn longer and produce more heat than softer woods.
Before using oak as firewood it needs to be seasoned properly, seasoning oak wood can take anything from 6 to 24 months depending on the environmental conditions.
It is hard to beat the heating ability of well-seasoned oak in your fireplace or on your family camping trip.
5. Using Oak to Find Truffles
In central and western Europe, oaks are used to identify spots where truffles grow. A truffle is a type of fungus that can cost more than 3000$ per/kg.
Many species of truffles live in symbiosis with the roots of oak trees and develop in areas where oak trees grow.
Some truffle hunters even plant oak trees for the sole purpose of producing truffles. Truffles will start growing when the tree is 4-7 years old and keep producing until the tree is 50 years.
6. Viking Ships Made Of Oak
The Vikings preferred to use oak for their ships over any other wood. Oak was especially used for the bigger and more prestigious ships that needed to be strong and last long.
The width of Oak trees is great for making wide boards perfect to use for larger ships. The Vikings also worked their wood unseasoned ( Not dried ) and oak is a very easy wood to work with when unseasoned and it hardens up when it’s dried.
In addition to being the wood with the most useful properties, the use of oak might have also had a religious purpose as it is the tree associated with Thor in Viking Mythology.
7. Food For Humans
Like any other tree and plant, Oaks produce seeds. The seed of the oak is called an acorn and can be eaten by humans. An acorn is highly nutritious and can be compared nutritionally to most kinds of nuts.
Nutrition of a portion serving (28g) of acorns:
- Calories: 144
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fat: 9 grams
- Carbs: 15 grams
- Fiber: 4 grams
- Vitamin A: 44% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
- Vitamin E: 20% of the RDI
- Iron: 19% of the RDI
- Manganese: 19% of the RDI
- Potassium: 12% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 10% of the RDI
- Folate: 8% of the RDI
Raw Acorn contains high amounts of tannins, which can be harmful to humans if consumed in large amounts. Leech out the tannins by putting the acorns in a pot of boiling water before consuming any of them.
Acorn Flour: Acorn flour is made from grounding down processed acorns into flour. Acorn flour can be used in baking recipes as a fun addition to normal flour.
Acorn Milk: Milk can be made from most nuts, Acorns are no exception. Acorn milk has a unique taste and not everyone likes it.
Acorn Coffee: Coffee can be made from Acorns. Acorn coffee tastes similar to barley coffee.
8. Medicinal White Oak Bark
White Oak bark has been used throughout history for its medicinal purposes. White oak bark can be applied to the skin in different ways to suppress inflammation and soothe irritated skin. It can also be drunk as tea, the tea is claimed to treat diarrhea, the common cold, bronchitis, sore throats, loss of appetite, and arthritis.
9. Oaks Are Nests for Barn Owls and Wood Ducks
When Oak trees get old, and I mean really old, like 500 years old. Their trunks start to rot from the inside. Leaving a bug hollow void in the center of the trunk. Many animals have learned to take advantage of the hollow parts of old oaks and use it as safe nesting grounds for the young. Barn Owls and Wood Ducks are two species that are especially keen on using oaks as cover.
Squirrels also love to live in the hollow parts of old oak trees.
10. Food For Animals
This use of the oak tree is not a use for us humans, but it still is useful for us if we want the wildlife to thrive. Oaks does not produce acorns every single year, but when they do, they produce acorns in large quantities. Wildlife takes advantage of this and loves to eat a lot of acorns when they come across them.
Animals like bears, muldeer, wild board, and several different kinds of birds depend on oak trees for feed.
If you want to see wildlife at its best, try scouting the forest floor beneath a big oak after it has shed its acorns. Wildlife will be thriving in these kinds of situations.
Oaks do not produce fruit (acorns) every year because if they did, they would not have enough energy to create enough acorns for the seedlings to grow into trees. The wildlife would simply eat all of the acorns and seedlings. So the oaks have developed a cycle of which years to bear fruit to overwhelm the wildlife populations need for acorns.
Because of this cycle, wildlife can never be sure where to find the acorns. And they will have to spend more time looking for them and not eating.