Mary's Veggie Garden

October 14, 2013

Going Nuts!

Filed under: Hickory Nuts — marysveggiegarden @ 9:44 pm

Yes, I’m now competing with the squirrels.

Ten pounds of Shagbark Hickory nuts

Ten pounds of Shagbark Hickory nuts

But at least I’m competing on their territory, not fighting with them in my gardens. I’ve been foraging for Shagbark Hickory nuts in the neighborhood.

I first noticed the abundant nuts in late September. We were walking out for milk when we discovered that the tree behind a local strip mall was dropping nuts all over the parking lot and adjacent lawn.

Some hickory nuts retain their husk but most nuts pop out of the husk when they hit the ground.

A few hickory nuts retain their husk but most nuts pop out of the husk when they hit the ground.

Most of the nuts pop out of their husk when they hit the ground (especially when they hit pavement)  and the rest of the husks are easy to remove.  The color of the nut shell gets darker the longer the nut sits in the husk.

Shagbark hickory nuts have thick shells. I’ve been cracking batches of nuts with a Vise Grip.

Hickories for cracking

Hickories for cracking

For me, it’s easiest if I set the jaws of the Vise Grip to a certain size then attempt to crack each nut. Then I tighten the jaws a tiny bit and try all the nuts again. I put the nut in the Vise Grip in the same position as in the picture with the jaws on the right and left sides. If I try a manual nut cracker with the nut in the same position I am not strong enough to crack it.

Hickories after 3-4 passes with a vice grip.

Hickories after 3-4 passes with a vice grip.

With just the right touch, the entire back of a shell will pop off. The remainder shatter.

Almost there...

Almost there…

Those two nuts in the lower left: some careful work with a manual nut cracker might pop the visible nut meat out whole. I use a nut pick to pry meat fragments out of the shells.

When we tried the nuts, our first impression was that hickories are very oily. When the shelling is done my fingers have an oily coating. The flavor of a hickory nut is very similar to a pecan though the nut meat is much smaller.

My husband shelled 7-8 nuts, separated the shells and meat and weighed them. He discovered that the nut meat is about 30% of the total weight.

Are hickories worth all the work? If you are watching your weight and cannot afford to eat many nuts, hickories in the shell are a satisfying choice. It is difficult to eat more than 6-8: it simply takes too long to shell them.



  1. I don’t think I’ve ever had a hickory nut. I do love pecans though.

    Comment by Daphne — October 15, 2013 @ 9:01 am | Reply

  2. I got some hickory nuts from a tree in a local park one year. They sure are good. Congrats on your harvest.

    Comment by crafty_cristy — October 16, 2013 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

  3. Hickory nuts are very good. When I was a kid, there was a HUGE old Shagbark Hickory tree an the far corner of their yard. I would sit under the tree with a hammer, a brick, and a nail.

    Comment by The Belmont Rooster — October 17, 2013 @ 12:16 pm | Reply

    • The Vise Grip, manual nutcracker and nut pick may be less exciting, but even so, the shells fly around the kitchen.

      Comment by marysveggiegarden — October 17, 2013 @ 2:29 pm | Reply

  4. Great harvest! We just got some this morning. Pretty late, had to sort through what the critters had already gotten. Next year we’ll get out there earlier.

    Comment by tjreiter — November 16, 2013 @ 6:20 pm | Reply

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