The 2020 hickory nut season was abysmal. I checked over 400 trees throughout Adams County, Pennsylvania. I didn’t even get 1/2 pound.

2020's tiny hickory nut harvest
My entire hickory nut harvest for 2020. You can see the darker, rotten nuts on the left. Probably many of the others are rotten.

Right when they were ready to drop I started checking the trees. I can get a sense for how many nuts there are going to be. I started to get concerned. I barely saw any!

There were a few trees that made nuts this year, but the squirrels ate them all up in the tree before they had a chance to drop.

You can see from the picture how small this year’s harvest was. I cracked a few after this picture was taken. the dark ones on the left are rotten and so were many of them. I bet I got ten nuts this year.

Hickory trees produce in pulses. Usually every two or three years is a big year. That’s called a mast year. The trees seem to get synced up by proximity. So all of the trees in a particular area will all have a mast year in the same year. I have mapped almost 500 tress. I’ve found that in any given year, I can cycle through the different trees and there are always some that have a good year. It ends up being a pretty good average of 100 lbs or so.

But this year there were basically NO hickory nuts. This year it seems that the issue was bigger than the mast years not syncing up. It was widespread. It seems to be across much of the mid-Atlantic. I got reports from many people saying that they had a very bad year too.

I’m not sure what caused this. My two main theories are 1) There was a freeze while the catkins (like the trees’ flowers) were out or 2) the trees didn’t produce any nuts because of the drought.

I had even recorded a video talking about how bad of a season it was and that I wouldn’t be selling any nuts this year. Thankfully I didn’t send it.

I received an email from a gentleman in northern PA. He said he had almost 200 pounds of shagbark hickory nuts that all came from one [very happy] tree! He told me he cleans his yard with a snow shovel!

Well, since I couldn’t stomach having a completely dead year, I bought his hickory nuts from him. I want as many of you as possible to have hickory nuts.

hickory nut processing. hickory nuts in bags

Overall, I’m very pleased with his hickory nuts. They taste delicious. The vast majority are good viable nuts! They are a little bit on the smaller side, but nothing unreasonable. Normally I have nuts from hundreds of trees and they get mixed together, so you might have different sizes, different shell thicknesses, and different tastes. This year they are pretty consistent because they all came from one tree.


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