One type of tree that you can find across North America and many other parts of the world is the hickory tree. The fruit of hickory trees is called hickory nuts.
They are nuts that are considered by many as one of the best treats mother nature has to offer with 200 calories per nut.
However, there are several things to consider if you are planning to make use of this remarkable fruit. Some are very crucial information that could keep you or a loved one away from unfortunate circumstances.
Are They Edible?
Hickory nuts are nutritious fruits that can give a lot of advantages when it comes to foraging.
While all nuts that fall from hickory trees are edible, some are not advisable for consumption. And some poisonous nuts that don’t even belong to the same genus as hickory nuts, which is genus Carya, have very similar physical appearances.
How to Identify Edible Hickory Nuts
All hickory nuts have a double-shelled form, but other types of nuts also share the same figure. It’s essential not to confuse hickory nuts with other double-shelled nuts, as some are dangerous to your health.
The good news is, even though the nutshells have very strong resemblances, you can easily tell their difference when you look at the nutmeat. An example of this is buckeye nuts. They have similar outer shells with hickory nuts, but their inner shell for the nutmeat looks like an almond. It’s very different from the walnut-looking inner nutshells of a hickory nut.
There are about 3 species of hickory trees native to eastern Asia and 15 species local to the northern part of America. While none of them are poisonous, some are avoided by many for foraging. These are the bitternut hickory and the pignut hickory. Unpleasant taste is the reason why people don’t recommend them. Eating them in very small amounts is okay, but more than that is not a very wise decision.
Still, there are more good hickories than bad ones. Depending on the forest you’re in, you may find red hickories, mockernut hickories, shellbark hickories, sandnut hickories, southern shagbark hickories, and many more.
To separate the tasty types of hickory nuts from the ones steer clear of, simply take a bite out of the nutmeat. If it tastes very bitter, then it’s not the type you should gather up.
How to Find Hickory Trees
The most crucial element of this process is correctly identifying hickory trees so that you don’t touch or consume anything that could be a risk to your well-being.
To pick out the hickory with edible nuts in a forest that houses hundreds of trees, keep an eye out for the most common characteristics of tree species that belong in the genus Carya.
Look for a hardwood tree with narrow leaves two to eight inches (5-20 cm) long. Serrated margins sprout from every stem, which distinguishes the leaves. The leaves develop in pairs from the stem, with two to nine leaves on the sides and one at the end.
Hickories usually reach a height of 100 feet (30 m) and have a lengthy taproot. Hickory trees come in a number of different forms, but they all share the same long, thin shape.
The fruit is a drupe in the shape of an egg. A thick husk surrounds the pit or kernel, which is not a genuine nut, and breaks into four fibrous parts as it grows.
How to Crack Hickory Nuts
Picking ripe hickory nuts are usually pretty simple as they fall immediately from the trees when they are ready to eat. The husks will normally crack open as well, making it much easier for you to reach the fruit.
Remove and discard the husks after you’ve foraged the nuts. Then, look for weevils and bugs that may have burrowed into the nuts and consumed the nutmeat. If you notice boreholes in a nut, get rid of it because it likely doesn’t have a fruit anymore.
A nutcracker designed for walnuts can be used to shatter open the shells of hickory nuts. To force the shell open, you can use a vise or a hammer. If you are out in the wild, you can use a rock or the handle of a knife. Lay the nut on a firm, flat surface and pound it until the shell breaks. You can also use the blade of the knife to finish the job. Be careful not to damage the fruit.
After you’ve cracked open the nut, use the point of a knife to pluck out the fruit, and it’s good to go. Different types of hickory nuts offer different kinds of sweetness. All of them make the trouble of cracking very much worth it. They can be eaten right away or stored for months to a year in a cool, dry area.
Can Dogs Eat Them?
Like with humans, hickory nuts are not poisonous to dogs. Dogs absolutely love nuts, but many are not good for their health. This includes hickory nuts.
Hickory nuts fall into the same size category as walnuts and pecans. They are bigger compared to other types of nuts, so they can cause intestinal blockage or choking hazards. The chances of that happening is high as dogs can’t chew as effectively as people.
Even though hickory nuts don’t originally contain elements that are poisonous to dogs, they can still become toxic. When tree nuts become old and moist, they develop mold, which can be lethal to your furry pal.