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.
The 2020 hickory nut season was abysmal. I checked over 400 trees throughout Adams County, Pennsylvania. I didn’t even get 1/2 pound.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
This is the first hickory nut harvest of 2018! The floodgates are open now! The next couple of weeks I will be running around Adam’s county like crazy in order to harvest as many nuts as I can before the squirrels and weevils get to them.
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
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
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
Today I had the luxury of lying in my hammock for a good while. I was tied up to a shagbark. Right now the trees are self-selecting and dropping nuts. I brace myself every time I hear a nut hitting leaves on its way down. Thankfully I didn’t get hit by any today, but I’m pressing my luck.
Look at these fine specimens of shagbark hickory trees.
Yesterday I went for a walk to inspect the trees. They seemed as happy and shaggy as ever. Right now there’s not much I can do but wait for the glorious nuts to start falling in the fall. I like to take a stroll to visit the trees a few times throughout the year.
These are only a few of the trees that I harvest from. They happen to be the closest to my house.