Healthy Food · Wild Foods

Foraging for Wild Hickories

This fall has made for excellent foraging and I barely had to step out my door for my first pick. Our tiny homestead is built surrounded by a small hickory forest. It sounds like mini bombs falling on our tin roof, but hey, who am I to frown at free food?
foraging for wild hickories

Most hickory nuts are edible, but some are more pleasant than others. Supposedly the best are Shagbark Hickories, which are the ones we have. The insides are easier to crack than others and are easily recognizable by their … shaggy bark. Surprising, no?

Nuts commonly start falling in late summer and early fall. Our trees are almost done, but I’ve quite the stash piled up from the last few weekends of collecting.

Here’s what I got in one of my first outings just a few square feet around our house. I love this basket my mom gave me for collecting my wild foods. I also picked some milkweed and red clover to dry, for cultivating butterflies and tea respectively.

foraging for wild hickories

Most of our hickory nuts fall to the ground and crack off the hull. This is how they look once the hull has popped off. Then the only thing you have to do is make sure there aren’t any tiny holes in the shells. This indicates that worms have drilled into the nut to feast on those nutmeats. No sense in cracking these open! All you’ll get is nasty white wigglers.

I’ve been using a cutting board flat on the concrete floor and smashing them open with a hammer. I did miss once and hit my thumb. I can tell you I won’t do that again! Ouch! (If you look closely you can see the beginning of my purpling bruise under my thumbnail.)









On the left, you can see that this nut has completely dried out. You won’t be getting anything edible from this one. The one on the right however is perfectly ready for eating. You can pick out the rest of those meats or hit it a few more times.

It is a very time consuming process to crack these, but extremely gratifying. I’d recommend it as a great cold weather pastime while watching Netflix! After a week of drying, the nuts can be stored in a cool location for about a month, or you can pick out the nuts and freeze them! I’m storing mine in the fridge and just adding to it as I have time to crack more.

Save those shells! You can compost them, or toss them into your fireplace as great tinder.

I’ve been told hickories are great for putting in any recipe that calls for store bought pecans. Do you have any recommendations for me to try?

Keep an eye out for my next post on black walnuts!


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