What Kind of Nut???

MNature(z6 TN)November 4, 2005

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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

One of the hickories. I don't see them often enough to be able to ID by the nut, but would probably be able to do so if I saw an entire compound leaf, and the bark.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2005 at 12:25PM
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    Bookmark   November 4, 2005 at 12:36PM
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pond_comet76(z6 TN)

Got a pic of the bark? Yes it is a hickory nut. If I could see the bark and maybe a leaf I could identify it for you....PC

    Bookmark   November 4, 2005 at 7:05PM
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rizzir(z7b TN)

Are these edible by humans? I was gifted with a great number of them by the City leaf-collecting crew when they dumped their giant trailer of leaves in my driveway last Tuesday!

I also have a great GREAT number of black walnuts, already husked and ready to be roasted and/or shelled. Let me know if you're in the Knoxville area and want some.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2005 at 11:12AM
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amazindirt(7A mid-TN)

Hickory nuts are VERY edible. If you ate some of that wonderful "pecan" pie at the swap, you were actually eating hickory nuts. :-)

Hickory nuts were a staple food of the American indians. Unfortunately, most of them are very hard to shell!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2005 at 11:39AM
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ShadyGrove5(z6b TN)

You will need a hammer and a concrete block to crack your hickory nuts, but it is well worth it. The thicker the shell, the smaller the nutmeat will be inside, so test a few first. Our family has been blessed/cursed with several kinds of hickory nut trees in the yard and only the smallest shagbark/scaly bark trees are edible. Settle down to crack your nuts with the hammer and then after cracking, use some nut picks and remove the meats, store them in the freezer because they are high in oils and will go rancid on the shelf. mmmm pie.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2005 at 10:25PM
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rizzir(z7b TN)

I read that you should hang up your walnuts to cure for 4-6 weeks before shelling. Do you do this with hickory nuts, too?

    Bookmark   November 7, 2005 at 4:15PM
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Soeur(z6b TN)

That's shagbark hickory you've got (Carya ovata).


    Bookmark   November 8, 2005 at 8:10PM
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Looks kinda like shagbark, but the picture is too pixelated, and the color is a bit off to get a firm ID - may be shagbark(C.ovata), but could be mockernut(C.tomentosa).
Shagbark nutshells are lighter in color(almost white) than mockernut or shellbark nuts(brown). A good shagbark can be cracked without too much difficulty in a pecan cracker, though some have shells thick enough to require a vise or a good black walnut cracker. Most, if not all, shellbarks, and every mockernut will require a heavy duty cracker to do justice to their thicker shell.
While mockernut has superb flavor and aroma - almost as strong as black walnut - their shell is so thick and internal ridges are so prominent, that they're typically not worth bothering with cracking, as you'll have difficulty extracting more than small fragments of nutmeat.

Hickory nuts are typically 'ready to eat' when they drop from the tree. If you want to put them in a cool dry place to cure for a week or so, so much the better.
ShadyGrove is right about 'em going rancid, but so long as you get 'em cracked, picked out and frozen within 6 months or so, you should be OK on that point.

Soaking the nuts for an hour or two in a pan of hot water before a session of cracking will allow the shells absorb enough moisture to buckle and split when compressed in a cracker(or hit with a hammer if you must), instead of flying to pieces when you reach 'critical pressure'. You'll get more intact halves/quarters, instead of tiny pieces.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2005 at 11:55PM
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rizzir(z7b TN)

OK, I have been using the lawnmower to mulch the leaf pile, and in the process, I mowed quite a few of the hickory nuts. It knocked the thick woody coverings off them, leaving the light-colored inner shell intact. I was able to easily crack the inner shell with a handheld stainless nutcracker. The majority of the meats were shriveled, black, and some even moldy so I only got to eat a few, but those were tasty! They tasted similar to the walnuts you buy at the store, but without any bitterness. It was pretty easy to get the meats out.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2005 at 4:21PM
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Soeur(z6b TN)

Although both mockernut and shagbark have thick husks, mockernut isn't ridged like the nuts shown in the pic. Shagbark is, however. I collect hickory nuts for propagation purposes, and have in my possession at the moment mockernut, shagbark, red, shellbark, sand and pignut hickories, so I can compare and contrast the fine points easily. :)

In my experience the color of the nuts of all species out of the husk varies depending on how long they've been exposed to air and moisture.


    Bookmark   November 14, 2005 at 6:44PM
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rizzir(z7b TN)

The ones I have have incredibly thick husks (like 1cm!) Which ones are those?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2005 at 9:40PM
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Hmm. Picture's coming through nice & crisp today. I vote for mockernut. Too brown to be a typical shagbark, though nut color and conformation can be quite variable within a species.
Still, leaf, bud and bark photos would clinch it.
Marty, the mockernuts here are ridged, very much like the ones in the photo above.
I've got one tree on the farm here that appears to be a mockernutXshagbark hybrid - bark is deeply furrowed/ridged - most like mockernut, though it does show minor tendency toward exfoliation high up in the tree somewhat like shagbark, leaflets of 5 like shagbark, nuts are identical in shape to the nearby mockernuts, but are white instead of brown, and while the shell is thicker than most shagbarks, I can crack them with a hand-cracker and extract nutmeates in intact halves/quarters.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 5:28PM
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Soeur(z6b TN)

Lucky, it's interesting your mockernuts are so distinctly ridged. I haven't seen any like that around here. Just shows how much genetic variation exists in the species.

I think I've run across a mockernut-shagbark hybrid, too. At first I thought it was a shagbark, as the bark was exfoliating somewhat. But the nuts were wrong, and more closely resembled mockernut. I'm growing some, but it'll be years before they reveal anything about their parentage.

MNature, to your original question... It may be that the only way to possibly ID your nut is to try cracking it. Shagbarks have thin shells, mockernuts have thick ones. Or, if it's a hybrid, it may fall somewhere in between and you may never know. :)


    Bookmark   November 30, 2005 at 9:56PM
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Yeah, Marty, there's a lot more variation within a species, sometimes, than there is between different species. I've seen ridged/non-ridged nuts of both species we've been discussing.
Have one tree I've been gathering nuts from for years - when I can beat the squirrels to 'em - thinking it was a shagbark - but this year, while doing a leaf collection with my daughter, I realized that it's got 7 leaflets - must be a shagbark hybrid, probably with shellbark. Nut looks most like shagbark, and bark pattern is most like shag, but the leaves suggest shellbark in its heritage.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 6:52PM
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jenny530(z7b GA)

I just wanted to agree that yes this is Mockernut, NOT shagbark. We have Mockernuts all over this area of Georgia along with these nuts. Shagbark hickories are practically nonexistent in this region, though shellbark can be found. I come from Ohio so know the true beauty of a real Shagbark hickory! It's a tree I really miss in the landscape. Most experts that write and comment on tree identification will tell you there is much variation within hickory species, leaves, nuts, everything! They can really throw you for a loop. As soon as you say something like: "Oh the involucre on a Mockernut nut is THICK!!" You will then turn around and find a tree with thin involucres...then you'll get depressed and start questioning your plant ID ability!! As always with learning plants, find more than one defining characteristic to look for in plants and that will help.

So I am new to harvesting and trying to use these nuts. I remember eating hickory nuts as a kid and my dad cooking with them...these must have been shagbark?? because cracking these Mockernuts is next to impossible...should I not even bother?

    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 9:47AM
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Hey, Jenny.
I suspect you grew up eating shagbark or shellbark hickories in OH. The 'gold standard' in shagbarks, the "J.Yoder #1" selection, originated in OH.
I grew up in east-central AL, and can only think of a single shagbark tree on the farm I grew up on - and it produced a tiny, little insignificant nut. Plenty of mockernut and pignut hickories there but few shag or shellbarks. Enough pecans - cultivated and volunteer - that I had access to plenty of nuts, but if you've ever had a hickory pie, you just don't look at pecan pie with the same interest again.

Most mockernuts aren't worth the trouble to crack,for the small amount of nutmeat - and the tiny fragments you're able to extract - but once in a while, you run across one that cracks out reasonably well - there's at least one named mockernut selection that has been propagated, based on its nut quality . Still, you need a vise or nutcracker designed for use with black walnuts to crack those babies. Soaking the nuts in warm water for a couple of hours prior to a session of cracking is helpful, as it allows the nutshell to bend, flex, and split, rather than exploding into pieces when you reach 'critical pressure'.
However, you can make a pretty tasty hickory syrup by cracking mockernuts, boiling the nuts, straining, adding sugar, and cooking it down to a thick syrup consistency. If interested, I've got an article I wrote on hickory syrup/hickory butter a couple of years ago; email me direct and I'll be glad to send it to you as a Word document.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 11:33AM
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Looks like the shag bark hickory. Question. In propagating Hickory I have read that the nuts must be gathered before they freeze and then store at 30 to 50 degrees and then plant in leaves or potting soil. I have gathered about 50 Shellbark Hickory nuts and put them in leaves and then outside in our shed. They have seen zero degree temps now so will they germinate and if so when? If they are left in the wild they sure will see zero temps up here in Pennsylvania so I don't understand the article that I read. I am always picking up acorns and sprouting them and then taking them to the woods in the spring and I thought I could do the same with hickroy.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2008 at 1:48PM
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Okay so I have a hickory nut that i found. It looks like a shellbark nut, but the bark is all wrong could it be a hybrid. It has bark like a red hickory. Can some one help. Thanks

    Bookmark   December 23, 2008 at 5:41PM
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