How to Harvest Hickory Nuts

This page is a collection of random tips that I’ve put together after harvesting thousands of pounds of nuts for seven years.

Don’t be a Weasel. Use a Nut Weasel

The Nut Weasel is a must-have if you’re going to be harvesting more than two nuts.

More to come.

What the Hull is this?

I suggest that you attempt to get the hulls out of your mind even before they make it into your bucket. However, if the tree made a lot of nuts, and they come out of the hull sort-of easily, I find it’s better to hurry and get all of the nuts with hulls and then spend time getting them out of the hulls later. Sometimes you can grind them with your feet (treads recommended), you can throw them at a hard surface (driveway or road), or just pick them apart with your hands.

If you want to sell to me, I do not pay for hulls. I’m only after the nut meat.

[Evil] Weevil Larvae

Ok. They’re not evil. Weevil larvae gots to eat too. But they can be gross, especially if you’re not ready for them. And in some cases, they can be a large percentage of your overall harvest!

Below are a few videos with tips about weevil larvae.

Let Your Nuts Sit for a Few Weeks While the Larvae Crawl Out

In this video I suggest that you should harvest your hickory nuts and let them sit for a week or two while the larvae bore out of your nuts. If you float test and weigh them when you harvest them you may separate out the floaters thinking they are perfectly fine Grade B. Only to discover that many of them are non-viable nuts. So let those larvae crawl out and then float test and weigh them.

If you’re selling me hickory nuts, a few with holes are OK, but utimately I expect you to remove them. This is where float testing comes in. If the nut floats look careflully to remove the ones with holes.

Throw All Nuts With Holes Away As Fast As You Can

When you are harvesting hickory nuts you want to be as efficient as possible. Well, one thing you can do to not waste time later in the process is to remove all dud nuts before you even put them in your bucket. In this case I’m talking about the nuts with weevil larva. If you see a little hole in your nuts or hull, throw it away before it even makes it into your bucket. I suggest throwing it somewhere where you won’t have to think about the nut again.


Pattern for Efficiency

I used to run around randomly and just pick up nuts. I learned early on that I needed to become more organized. I started doing this spiral technique in order to be more efficient and not waste time.

Basically, you start at the trunk and spiral outwards. You harvest one spiral at an arm’s length. Then when you get back to the beginning you just go out one more arm length. Continue spiraling out until you get to the edge of the drip line. Always look for branches that hang out.

Image of spiral pattern out from the tree trunk
Start at the trunk and spiral out

Keep it clean

A tip that I recommend is that you keep the area under the hickory trees free from clutter. When I can, I will throw any non-viable nuts or other debris out of the harvesting area. Literally just throw them out of the treeline. That way you don’t have to think about those nuts every time you go to the tree.

So non-viable nuts include nuts that are in hulls that just won’t pry open, nuts that have been infested by weevil larvae, unformed duds, etc. Debris could be hulls, sticks, or anything else.

How to save time by visually identifying viable nuts

As you are around hickory nuts you will start to be able to tell which ones are viable before you do a float test or try them. The best ones are bright white. Many times if they sit in the hull for too long (especially through a rain) they will be stained dark. But that doesn’t mean that they are rotten. Rotten ones have a more tan or reddish color. Start cracking them and you will see what I mean.

Float test

Typically, I collect them all together for the season. Then i do one or two float tests towards the end of the season. As they sit there for the first few weeks, the weevil larvae will bore out of the shell. That automatically disqualifies all of those duds. Many of the nuts that float are good, and you can set them aside as Grade B. However, if you float them right away with weevil larvae then when they float then you will set them aside as Grade B and then the larvae will crawl out and you will have wasted your time separating those nuts. So yes, wait a few weeks to float test.

How to Float Test