First Thing’s First
There are several questions you have to ask yourself to figure out how long they keep. You have to consider:
- Have they properly been dried?
- Are they shagbarks, shellbarks, or sweet pignuts?
- Are they whole or cracked?
In general, hickory nuts last a long time. In the right conditions they will last for years.
1. Have the Hickory Nuts Been Dried?
Typically I will dry the nuts before I sell them to you. I let them air dry for a few weeks. Then I put them on my masonry heater for a night where they dry at about 100° F.
Earlier in the season you will want to open the bag up. These nuts are not fully dried and they will evaporate off a bit. If they are sealed in the plastic bag they may condense and cause the nuts to rot. There are three options you can choose from when you get the nuts. 1) The most passive way to deal with them is to simply open the bag when you get it. I’d leave it open for a few months. 2) To expedite the drying process, you could put them on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven. They don’t take long to dry out. Just stick them in there at 125° F for an hour or two. 3) just throw the bag in the freezer. This makes sense if you have a specific use for them like baking a cake or you won’t get to them for a while.
2. Shagbarks, Shellbarks, or Sweet Pignuts?
Shagbarks seem to need the least amount of time to dry. Plus, many of the shagbark trees are in dry places where the nuts have a bit of time to dry on the ground before I get to them. Also, they taste just about the same when they are a little green.
Shellbarks and Sweet Pignuts
The shellbarks grow in the wetlands, but these two are very similar. They take a bit more time to dry than shagbarks. Their shells are thicker, and I think they are just a “wetter” nut in general. You will notice a significant change in flavor with these two when they dry. The shellbarks and Sweet Pignuts (Red Hickories) go from a more banana flavor to the more classic hickory flavor.
3. Are they Cracked or Whole Hickory Nuts?
Cracked hickory nuts will last quite a long time without refrigeration. That is a few months to a year in the right conditions. If they are dry, put them in a glass jar and they will last you for a year or more. If you really want to save them, then put them in a plastic bag (or vacuum seal if you can) and stick them in the freezer. They should last you for many years.
Whole hickory nuts will last you several years if they are stored in a cool, dry place. They will last you even more years if you stick them in the freezer. Even better yet, store them in a vacuum seal in the freezer. I store my inventory in five gallon buckets in my basement with screw on lids and they last many years.
Please remember that these are a natural product straight from the tree. Some irregularities may occur. These may include a few rotten nuts or nuts that were eaten by worms.