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Thread: 2021 Appears to be a bountiful hickory nut year

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    United States Avalon Member Dennis Leahy's Avatar
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    Default 2021 Appears to be a bountiful hickory nut year

    Quite likely, the people who forage for some of their food already know this, but 2021 appears to be a bountiful year for the production of hickory nuts. (I'm not sure what that means outside of the northeastern and southeastern US, for other tree nut species that might be near you.)

    Hickory nut trees have a cycle of 3 years for nut production, with the 3rd year being the bounty year, followed by 2 sparse years. This is obviously a bounty year.

    This week, I have collected over 40 pounds of the largest and supposedly tastiest hickory nut, the Shellbark Hickory (Carya lacinosa.) My childhood home in Ohio had Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) trees, and that is the other hickory species mentioned as tasting the best. The huge advantage of Shellbark over Shagbark is the size of the nut: the Shellbark is triple the size. Shellbark Hickory also goes by the name "Kingnut", which must be due to their size and taste. They are excellent. Many nut aficionados say that hickory is the best tasting nut grown in North America.

    Hickory trees are really never planted in orchards, as the 1-in-3 years production makes for a crappy cash crop, and because it takes many years (at least 10, but more likely at least 20) before the trees produce very many nuts.

    So, they are just for the squirrels and other wildlife, and for human foragers. Human foragers that are willing to do what it takes to get the nut meats out of the shells. The shells are made of Kryptonite. Seriously. You could have the hand muscles of a bricklayer and still not be able to crack these nuts with a hand-held nut cracker. In fact, I'd say its more likely you'd injure your hand or break the nutcracker if you try. These require a hammer, or a serious table-mounted nutcracker with strong leverage.

    Hammering is tricky. You have to hit them pretty hard, but not so hard that they completely smash. Then, once you've accomplished the cracking, you'll spend a lot of time with a nut pick, digging the nut meat out of the convoluted folds of the nut shell. It's nothing at all like opening a walnut or pecan and grabbing intact nut meat or nut meat halves.

    I bought a serious table-mounted nutcracker with strong leverage. At least, I thought I did. I bent the steel rod trying to crack the first hickory nut! Did I mention that these are very very hard to crack?

    After collecting the nuts, the outer husks are removed, each nut is examined for holes (there is a nut weevil larvae that bores into hickory nuts), and then the nuts are all float tested. If they float, discard. Then they are allowed to dry in the shade, and finally put into a mesh bag that allows air flow around them, to prevent mold from growing.

    I am thinking that I might coat the nuts with a little bit of thyme oil, by filling a bucket with water, sprinkle a few drops of the thyme essential oil on the water surface, and throw the nuts in and mix 'em around... The thyme oil should prevent any mold or mildew from growing on the stored nuts. The other thing I'm thinking of doing is dying the nut shells with a non-toxic blue dye. Why? Well, then I could more easily see small nut shell shards within the pile of nut meat I've scraped out with nut picks.

    And, that brings up the other issue with these kryptonite shells - they are tooth breakers! You must not bite down on hickory shells. Every shell shard must be discarded.

    I may not be doing a great sales job on this foraged food item... hand injury, bent steel rod, kryptonite shells that refuse to crack with shards that are happy to crack a tooth... but the nuts are exceptionally tasty and to a forager, they are free.


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    United States Avalon Member wondering's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2021 Appears to be a bountiful hickory nut year

    Dennis, I remember these from my childhood in the Indiana countryside. The other one I remember is walnut...taking the outer shell off left your hands stained for days, but you still had to go to school! Thanks for the reminder! Good times! 😁

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    United States Avalon Member anasazi's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2021 Appears to be a bountiful hickory nut year

    The pecan bounty is amazing this year in our area as well! My patio is covered with them, however. We drove past a pecan processing plant the other day, and a roasted nut smell permeated everything and blew through into the car. I've not seen a year this bountiful in a long time. Good to hear that other nuts are producing well where you are.

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    Default Re: 2021 Appears to be a bountiful hickory nut year

    I love hickory nuts, as a young child myself and my sister use to forage in the woods a lot and hickory nuts were our favorites to gather. They are a very hard nut, my Dad used to tell us that we would starve to death before we could get enough nut meat to full our tummies.

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    Great Britain Avalon Member Mari's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2021 Appears to be a bountiful hickory nut year

    Well, I haven't any nut trees, but here in the UK it's been a great autumn for apples, pears etc. We had a brilliant sunny September (here in the south west anyway) I have a medium-sized Cox apple tree with very large, juicy, rosy coloured apples which I'm still picking and preserving, as some of them still seem to want to stay on the tree. Same with my Conference pear. Its been a rubbish year for the Plums, which all succumbed to a mould virus....just as they became ripe for picking (?) and the gooseberry bush thief came out at night again (Badgers) and scoffed the ruddy lot in one sitting 😖
    Maybe I'll invest in a couple of nut trees...almond or walnut should do it.

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    UK Avalon Member Brigantia's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2021 Appears to be a bountiful hickory nut year

    Quote Posted by Mari (here)
    Maybe I'll invest in a couple of nut trees...almond or walnut should do it.
    The problem in Britain is that the squirrels get them all!

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    United States Avalon Member wondering's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2021 Appears to be a bountiful hickory nut year

    Our squirrels love them, too. Isn't it amazing that we have so much trouble getting into them, but a 2# creature collects and, presumably, eats them happily. Yay Mother Nature! 😊

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