Beech Nut

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

beech nut a small nut of fine flavour, which has been gathered from beech trees, Fagus spp, and used for human food since prehistoric times. However, its main use has been for feeding animals, especially pigs. The nuts are often called beechmast, or simply ‘mast’ (a term applied also to acorns).

The generic name for beeches comes from a Greek word meaning ‘to eat’, indicating the importance which the nuts have had as food. However, the names in Germanic languages, Buche, Buke, etc., are all related to ‘book’. Loewenfeld (1957) speculates that this may be because runic tablets and early ‘books’ were made of beech; she notes also that the same is true of the first letters cut by Gutenberg for printing purposes.