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2020 Hickory Nut Season

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.

4 thoughts on “2020 Hickory Nut Season

  1. My name is Retha. I am from central GA. I have property in Franklin, NC Blue Ridge mountains. I have one grade of hickory nuts in my yard in Ga, and another grade of green then big black hulls in NC. My husband has picked up all of these hickory nuts and has my garage full and I simply do not know what to do with them. I am getting ready to put them on the side of the road for gatrbage pick-up. Can I sale them? HELP.

    1. Hey Retha, Thanks for commenting. I’m sorry I didn’t approve this a long time ago. I’m guessing you already got rid of them. That’s ok. I would have told you that you are too far away for me to buy them from you. As of now, shipping them isn’t worth the time and money. I’m not sure what kind of hickory nuts you have. You say that the one is green and then turns black. I’m guessing that’s not hickory but black walnut. Although some hickory shells do start green and do get dark, they are usually brown. If the hull is one smooth ball and not lots of pieces that break apart then you definitely have black walnut. Black walnuts are very difficult to crack and you need a special cracker. They’re easy to get online, but nothing else will do it really. They are good, but definitely unique and not for everyone. Hickory nuts are WAY better and much easier to get to. Usually I never get around to processing the black walnuts because they are so difficult and messy.

  2. I live in Rehoboth Beach, DE and have lived in the same house for 20 years and have a few hickory trees but this year is the first I can remember of not having any nuts from the trees. I have never eaten a hickory nut and it sounds like I’m missing something. My problem is apparently squirrels also depend on them so now they constantly attack my bird feeders which have safflower seed.

    1. Well, you’re lucky (assuming you have an edible variety)! Having a tree that produces every year is pretty rare. Most trees take a season off every two or three years. I wouldn’t worry about the tree. I think that’s pretty natural. **Crosses fingers** Do you see any other signs of sickness?

      It does blow my mind that you have reliable hickory trees, but never tried a nut! Try not to think of all of the wasted goodness. 😎

      And yes, squirrels (and chipmunks) like hickory nuts as much as me!

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