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2021 will be a stellar year for hickory nuts!

2021 will be a stellar year for hickory nuts! Well, as many of you know, 2020 season was abysmal, but let’s not dwell in the past. This season is going to make up for it! As usual, I’ve been watching the hickory trees this summer. Now it’s the first day of September. I’ve been tracking over 400 trees for five years. Many of the trees that have never produced a nut are laden this year. Not only that, the trees have a LOT of nuts on them.

This season everything has been coming in early: beans, tomatoes, berries, etc. The hickory trees are following suit; it seems that the trees are going to drop their nuts a few weeks early this year too. That’s my guess. That means they may be ready as soon as mid-October.

If you haven’t already, sign up for my alert to be notified as soon as they are ready to ship. Like I said, 2021 will be a stellar year for hickory nuts!

Plus, this is my first year to purchase hickory nuts. My goal is to make hickory nuts the next great nut! The next step is to figure out how to get them out of the shell with a machine.

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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.

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How to Crack and Eat Hickory Nuts

So you got a sack of hickory nuts, or you’re thinking about purchasing some to try. Now you’re wondering, “how do I get that goodness in me!? How do I crack these hickory nuts?”
One of the reasons you don’t see hickory nuts grown commercially is because they can be tricky to get out of the shell. They aren’t like a pistachio. You can’t just snap the shell in half. I do admit they take patience, but I think it’s totally worth it! Wait until those nuts hit your taste buds.
Plus, part of the charm is sitting around eating nuts with your family or watching a movie. No reason to be in such a hurry.
There are, however, a few things you can do to optimize your time.
Now, we should make a distinction between “crack” and “shell.” Cracking hickory nuts is exactly what it sounds like. The nuts are still in pieces of the shell, but you can pick them out.
Shelling hickory nuts is where the nut is completely removed from the shell and the pieces are usually perfect halves of hickory nuts.
We also need to make a distinction between Shagbark and Shellbark hickory nuts. These are the kinds of hickory nuts that I sell. Getting to the nut meat inside is a bit different between the two. I’ll explain that now.

Shagbark Hickory Nuts

Cracking Shagbark Hickory Nuts

Shagbark nuts aren’t hard to crack. You can use a common hand cracker like this one.  I’m about to upload my review of this cracker, but for now you’ll have to trust me. After you crack the nut you will use your pick to work out the nut meat from the shell. Keep those shells totally separate. I had a friend that broke a tooth when a piece of shell drove itself like a wedge between her teeth. After a while you get a discerning eye.
This method is the best when you’re lounging around with your family during an autumn evening. No reason to rush that hickory nut greatness.
I can run these through my heavy duty,
Shelling Shagbark Hickory Nuts
Maybe you want to make a pie or cookie and you need to remove the shells. So far the best method I’ve found for shelling shagbark nuts is to use the Texan York Nut Sheller. Basically you cut the ends off. Then you cut the top off. Then you can simply cut down the middle and you usually have two perfect hickory nut halves. I’m going to make a review about it soon, but for now you can find a few videos about it on YouTube.


Shellbark Hickory Nuts

Cracking Shellbark Hickory Nuts

Shellbark hickory nuts are harder to crack than Shagbark. A basic cracker isn’t going to cut it. For those you will probably want anything that can crack a black walnut. They are pretty hard.
Of course I can run them through my heavy duty cracker for you. I can crack a pound of either kind in no more than two minutes.
Now if you’re looking to cleanly shell them (shagbark) for a pie. I think the texan nut sheller is the best thing going! At some point soon I hope to do a review of that too.
Someday I may invent a machine to do it at scale.:)
I hope you try some. I’m not exaggerating when i say that they are the best tasting nut there is.
Sorry for the delay. For some reason responses from the contact form don’t forward to my real email.
pile of cracked hickory nuts
Cracked Hickory Nuts

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2019 Hickory Nut Season is Well Underway

I’m super stoked! I’ve already managed to squirrel away a nice sized cache of Hickory nuts. The Shagbarks are producing like crazy. The the Shellbarks not so much usually hold their nuts for a while. I found an extremely productive pignut. Which is a new one for me. I didn’t measure this for exact amounts, but it seems like the trees are happy this year. I’ve tried the nuts from four or five trees already and they are extraordinarily delicious. I’ve gotten permission to harvest on three new properties already.

They are not quite ready to ship. The nuts have to be float tested and sorted into grade A. Then they need to be dried for a few weeks. I expect they’ll be ready to ship by late October.

Right now I’m still in full-on harvest mode. I’ve got to beat the squirrels and chipmunks!

Bucket quarter full of 2019 pignut Hickory harvest
2019 pignut Hickory harvest

One full bucket and a quarter bucket of shagbarks 2019 Hickory Nut harvest--shagbarks and pignuts in the back
2019 Hickory Nut harvest–shagbarks and pignuts in the back

What I believe to be pignut bark

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Thanks for a stellar hickory nut season!

Thanks for a great 2018 season. Here are a few of the highlights: 

  • I sold 31 orders for a total of 63 pounds. 
  • I shipped to 20 different states
  • 1st repeat customer 
  • 1st 3X customer
  • 5 lb ordered from Philly Wild Harvesting Meetup
  • I paid off all of our harvesting and processing tools
  • I cleared out 2017 and 2018 stock! Thanks for helping us sell out.
  • I discovered a happy grove of the ellusive Shellbark trees. 
  • I mapped 300+ hickory trees in 2018
  • I received permission from 5 or 6 new property owners to harvest on their property

Lord willing, I’ll be back in the fall of 2019 to delight your taste buds with the incredible hickory nut!

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The Nuts are Coming in Now!

Well, it’s finally shagbark hickory nut season! I’m like a squirrel. I love them so much! I want everyone to try them. That’s why I sell shagbark hickory nuts. Not only are they edible, but they taste amazing! And they are good for you.

I’ve been making my usual circuit around Adams County, PA. This year I’ve been applying my notes from the years past in order to maximize my harvest.

In 2017 I learned that the window of viability is pretty narrow. If they are on the ground for too long (10 days or so) then they become exponentially more rotten. In 2017 we went on vacation right in the middle of the season.

In 2018 I have the luxury of applying more time to harvesting. I’m making it more of a priority. I’m trying to make hay while the sun is shining. I think I have another five to seven days before the nuts are too far gone. Most of them have dropped, but a few trees are still hanging on.

I’ve clocked about fifteen towards harvesting so far. I have right around fifty pounds. Here are a few random shots of my experience so far.

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2018’s Hickory Nuts are Almost Ready

The hickory nuts are just about ready to fall for 2018. The squirrels are up there eating them, so I know they’re about to fall! It will be a few more days until they are ready to fall. If the squirrels don’t eat them all.

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yo this is Ryan I am taking a little

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stroll in the woods near my house I’m

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doing the first check for hickory nuts

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super excited I will say this year I

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haven’t really been looking at the trees

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a lot of times I’ll walk around and

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check out the trees and this year this

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summer I didn’t so I’m pretty excited to

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thought I heard one falling pretty

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excited to come out here and just see

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how they’re doing

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okay so there’s a shag bark you can see

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this one happens to be so shaggy

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it’s literally peeling off

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I will sustainably harvest some of this

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bark off of a shagbark hickory I don’t

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over harvest but I know where there’s

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enough trees that I can pull a little

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bit off of each tree so if you want some

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hickory shagbark hickory bark smoke and

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I’m not talking about getting high I’m

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talking about smoking your meats man all

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right man look I’m investigating look

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what we got

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signs of debris I’ll tell you exactly

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what that is that’s a squirrel

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stealing my hickory nuts I’m just

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kidding the hickory nuts are there sue

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I’ll share I’ll be happy to share these

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with the squirrels now when they start

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hitting the ground denim not as happy so

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when you see this kind of debris laying

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around that’s really green and broken

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that means essentially that the nuts

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inside there are good enough to eat

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they’re probably they probably have a

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lot of tannins and they’re really hard

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to get to unless you’ve got big squirrel

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teeth and you know you are a squirrel I

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found that it’s really not worth the

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effort to get to those green nuts so

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what you see now is just the shells

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basically I mean there I heard one and

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when they do fall the squirrels are

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roaming the ground looking for those

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green ones and and prying them open and

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here’s one they’re busy over here the

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squirrels so you see what I mean

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you can’t really get to that you can’t

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get to it

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in a couple weeks when they start

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hitting the ground they’ll essentially

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just they’ll be so dry that they

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essentially just hit the ground

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crack open sometimes they’re so dry that

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they actually just break while they’re

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falling there and then you go around

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with your nut wizard and you just pick

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them up I’ll show you that when they

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start falling but today these hickory

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trees are not giving me edible food this

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is just not worth the time but the good

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news is that it seems like there’s gonna

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be a lot of eat green nuts up in the

00:03:29,340 –> 00:03:31,580

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so I’ll come back and check on these in

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a couple weeks so for now what I’m going

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to do is spend my time mapping these

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I’m gonna try to build comprehensive map

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of shagbark hickory nuts in Adams County

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Pennsylvania that’s my goal

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I’m gonna do it mostly for myself but

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I’m just curious to see what kind of

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trees are out here where they are see

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them on a map and then I can when

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they’re numbered that I can keep a log

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of which ones produce in which years the

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yeah I’d be I happen to be blessed to

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live in a nice little stand of them I

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think whoever owned this property a long

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time ago purposely put them here I know

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that hickories like limestone and

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there’s quite a bit of our soils very

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alkaline here a couple nice Oaks – that

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is a timber quality right there I

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wouldn’t cut them down they’re beautiful

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but I don’t have a say this isn’t my

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property so I can’t say what’s gonna

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but I hope they’re never developed

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they’re putting houses in across the

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street over there and if they cut down

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these hickory trees I will weep and weep

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actually what I would do is probably

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scrounge all my asses together and just

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try to buy it try to buy the property

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put it into conservation I hear a rumor

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that these shagbark hickory you can

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actually put them into conservation I’m

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not saying that I’m after the money but

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I know that these can be protected

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there’s a I forget the species of the

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bat but I know that there is a

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relatively endangered bat that will

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actually make its home inside the bark

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up under the bark and

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I like that idea like that idea

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protecting the bats they live in the

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trees I don’t know what it is I just

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have an affinity for the hickory tree I

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don’t know why I have such an affinity

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but I never really thought of myself as

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a tree hugger but I guess I am okay well

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the good news is that there’s nuts up

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there in the trees the bad news is

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they’re not quite ready they’re gonna

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need another my guess is probably

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another week to ten days before they

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start being worth my time to come out

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here and harvest there’s no reason to

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try to take those holes off when you can

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just get your nut wizard and pick them

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up so I’ll be back out here check on

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these trees in another week or so

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and I’ll get some more footage peace

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You Bought Some Hickory Nuts. Now What?

You just got some hickory nuts. Good for you! Your mouth is about to explode with the delicious nutty flavor. In my humble opinion there is no better nut!

I want you to get maximum enjoyment out of these nuts. Here are a few tips.

How to Get that Goodness in You

ekco nut cracker

It’s an age old problem: cracking nuts and getting that delicious, wholesome nut meat in your body! Back in the stone ages

they used stones to crack nuts. Just hit the nut with a stone. I image they used something like a porcupine quill or stick to dig the meat out.

Thankfully, today we have nut crackers and nut picks.

Hickory nuts aren’t especially hard, so a regular old, hand-held nut cracker is just fine. If you’re sitting around watching a movie or hanging out with friends then that is the best way. Just crack and eat.

If you are doing a lot of nut cracking then you  might want to get something more heavy-duty like this nut cracker.

How to Prepare Hickory Nuts


Raw is the most simple. This is how I eat them. Just get your nut cracker and pick and start eating! You can bake with them or eat them straight.


Roasted are the next simple and they take the taste to new levels! Simply spread out the nuts on a cookie sheet. The don’t have to be shelled. Put them in the oven at 300° for 60-90 minutes. If they are shelled then you can sprinkle a little tiny bit of veggie oil and salt.

Once they are roasted then you can bake with them or eat them straight.


Use hickory nuts in place of pecans in pecan pie! So good



You can make a hickory nut milk. I mix it into smoothies and ice cream, but you can drink it straight. It is so good for you and tastes amazing.

Hickory Nut Milk

How to Store Hickory Nuts

Hickory nuts last quite a long time. Especially when they are whole. There are a few things you can do to make them last even longer though!

How to Store Hickory Nuts


If your hickory nuts are already cracked then they may not last as long, but they will still last for a long time. If they are cracked then we recommend you put them in a zip lock back or vacuum sealer and put them in the freezer. if you don’t do that then keep them in a zip lock bag at least.


You could just put them on the counter and come back and eat them a year or more later and they would taste just as amazing. Likewise if you put them in a zip lock bag or vacuum seal and put them in the freezer they will last you years.

A Few Quick Points

  • Be careful of the shells! They can drive in between your teeth like a wedge and split a tooth. I had this happen to a friend. Just take a little extra time to make sure you got every little piece of shell out before you pop back a handful