Hickory Nuts: Identification and Types (With Pictures)

The hickory nut (genus Carya) is a product of the hickory tree. Hickory nuts, which are also a kind of hickory nut, are mostly edible and have a nutty, sweet flavor similar to that of a pecan nut.

The hard shell and woody husk protect the delicious nuts from the hickory tree. The pecan tree (Carya illinoinensis) and kingnut hickory (Carya laciniosa) produce the juiciest hickory nuts. The bitter and inedible bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis) and pignut hickory (Carya glabra) nuts are rather uncommon.

The many kinds of hickory nuts are covered in depth in this article. Identifying the finest nuts you may find where hickory trees are growing will be aided by descriptions and pictures of hickory nuts and trees.

About Hickory Nuts

Hickory nuts, also known as pecans, are tryna-like drupes that belong to the genus Hickory. The hard shell of the nut protects a softer seed or fruit in the center, which splits open when ripe.

Individual tree species have distinct characteristics that identify their Hickory nuts. Large nuts, for example, are shagbark hickory nuts that measure between 1.2″ and 2.5″ (3 – 6.5 cm) in diameter and come from the red or shellbark hickories. Pignut hickory and pecan nuts are more oval or pear-shaped in shape than other types of hickory nuts.

The manner in which the hard shell of Hickory nuts splits into four pieces may also be used to identify them. You should try to find hickory nuts with the shell intact or just a minor crack when you’re harvesting them. Hickory trees take around 25 to 30 years to start producing nuts.

Are Hickory Nuts Edible?

Some nuts from the hickory tree have a bitter taste, despite the fact that they are all edible and non-poisonous. Hickory nuts have a nutty flavor that you can enjoy by eating them straight from the shell. Moreover, due of their high oil content, the delish nuts are calorie-dense. Hickory nuts are similar to pecans or mild walnuts in flavor.

Hickory Nut Shell

The outer husk of hickory nuts splits to reveal the inner hard shell. The outer husks are fibrous and greenish-brown, which turn brown as the nuts mature on the tree. The husk splits open after it has ripened, revealing a hard, woody nutshell that is difficult to break. But, sampling the delectable buttery flesh of shagbark or kingnut hickories is well worth the effort of opening their nutshells.

Breaking open the tough shell of hickory nuts is one of the issues when harvesting them. The nutshells are often smooth and greasy, making them difficult to crack. As a result, using a hammer or a large stone to crack hickory nuts open is recommended. Pull the meat out of the shell after hitting the nut along the stem.

What To Do With Hickory Nuts

In cooking, hickory nuts may be used instead of pecan or walnuts. Of course, the fresh, crunchy fruit tastes amazing right out of the bush. You may, however, cook the nuts and shells separately to make hickory nut oil or hickory nut syrup.

The nut oil, for example, will produce a layer on the top of the nuts after boiling them in water for 30 minutes. You can use it as a baste for roasts or scrape off the top and use it as nut butter. Hickory nut syrup may be made by boiling the nuts in water with sugar. Hickory nuts may also be roasted in a low flame in the oven, or blended into smoothies.

However, what can you do with hard hickory shells? Throw them away at first, don’t do it. You may roast the woody nuts in the fireplace to get a hickory scent, which they burn well. Instead, to add a southern touch to cooked meat, simply toss some on the grill.

When Do Hickory Nuts Fall?

During windy spells or autumn storms, hickory nuts on the tree ripen and fall to the ground. You can also shake nuts off trees. But, be aware that a torrent of big, hard nuts might hit your skull. Every three years, hickories produce bumper nut crops.

Hickory Nut vs. Walnut

Because they are a related species in the Juglandaceae family, hickory nuts and walnuts have a similar taste. The hardness of the outer husk of a hickory nut, on the other hand, is different than that of a walnut. In addition, walnuts have a more wrinkled appearance than hickory nuts, which have smooth shells.

The bark of some hickory trees and walnut trees may also be used to identify the difference. The bark of Hickories is often peeling, and the tree looks unkempt. A walnut tree, on the other hand, has a tougher bark that starts smooth and then gets rougher as it ages.

How to Identify Hickory Nuts

The form and feel of the nut can be used to identify hickory nuts. Heart-shaped, round, or oblong hickory nuts are available. When it is mature in the fall, the outer husk becomes green and brown. A hickory nut found within reveals vented chambers with sweet or bitter flesh, depending on the species.

Observing the characteristics of a hickory nut tree may also help you determine the species. The long, pinnately compound leaves with huge lance-shaped leaves distinguish hickory trees. The leaves may be 10–24 inches (25–60 cm) long and are sold in pairs. The peeling gray bark of several hickory tree species is easily identified.

Types Of Hickory Nuts (with Pictures) – Identification Guide

Let’s examine hickory nuts in greater depth, which are often known as hickory nuts.

Shellbark Hickory Nut / Kingnut Hickory Nut (Carya laciniosa)

The immature shellbark hickory nut (left image) and mature shellbark hickory nut (right image) are two of the most delicious hickory nuts. The wide spherical or oval nuts grow to be 1.8″ to 2.5″ (4.5 to 6.5 cm) long and 1.5″ (3.8 cm) broad, with a diameter of up to 2″.

A sweet kernel is hidden under a woody dark-brown shell. The thick oval shell is an identifying characteristic of shellbark hickory nuts. The kernel inside this thick shell is tiny in size when compared to the king-sized hickory nut.

Shellbark Hickory Tree Nut Identification: Look for the long thin vertical scales that peel from the shellbark hickory tree’s bark to identify it. Shellbark hickory leaves are often seven-leafleted.

Shagbark Hickory Nut (Carya ovata)

The immature nut (left picture) and mature nut (right picture) from the shagbark hickory tree are big, hard ovals that range in size from 1.2 to 2 inches (3 to 5 cm). The shagbark hickory nut is characterized by its propensity to grow in pairs, dark brown to black color, and ease of splitting.

Hickory nuts from Shagbark are particularly delicious. Just the fallen nuts are ripe when you want to harvest shagbark hickory nuts. The leaf form of shagbark hickory nuts may be used to help identify them. Five-leaflet pinnate leaves with pointed tips are common. They typically have five leaflets.

Shagbark Hickory Tree Nut Identification: The characteristics of the Shagbark hickory tree may also be used to distinguish it. The tree has an unkempt appearance due to the dense, scaly bark that easily peels.

Shagbark Hickory tree (Carya ovata) bark

Southern Shagbark Hickory Nut (Carya carolinae septentrionalis)

The egg-shaped nut from the southern shagbark hickory splits freely after falling from the tree, and it is light to dark brown in color. Southern shagbark hickory nuts are up to 2 inches (5 cm) long and 0.8 inches (2 cm) broad.

The fruit is wonderfully sweet, much like those of Carya ovata and Carya laciniosa. Southern shagbark hickory nuts are often opened easily.

The likelihood is that this is a southern shagbark variety if you see hickory nuts on the ground split into four pointed pieces. A light-brown sweet flesh is exposed when the nut’s shell is opened.

Southern Shagbark Hickory Tree Nut Identification: The shaggy bark of the southern shagbark hickory peels high up on the tree in long strips.

Northern Shagbark Hickory Nut (Carya ovata var. ovata)

A spherical nut with a somewhat flattened top, the northern shagbark hickory nut has a smooth surface. The shagbark hickory nut is 1.5″ (4 cm) long and 0.6″ (1.6 cm) broad and has an egg-shaped form.

A delicious, eatable nut is hidden inside the thin tan shell. The northern shagbark can be identified by pinnate leaves with five serrated leaflets, apart from oval, tan-colored nuts.

Northern Shagbark Hickory Tree Nut Identification: The peeling bark of the northern shagbark hickory tree is exfoliating in thin strips.

Pignut or Black Hickory Nut (Carya glabra)

The immature nut (left picture) and ripe nut (right picture) from the pignut hickory tree are pear-shaped nuts with a green husk. 1″ (2.5 cm) long and 0.75″ (2 cm) broad, the oval pignut hickory nuts are 1″ (2.5 cm).

Four chambers hold a bitter kernel when the nut is cracked open. The pignut hickory nut is not tasty, despite the fact that it is not poisonous. It is not recommended to eat the meat because it is extremely bitter.

Wildlife, such as squirrels, rabbits, foxes, bears, and small mammals, love these hickory nuts. Pignut hickory nuts are notable for their lack of splitting on their own.

Pignut Hickory Tree Nut Identification: The 12-inch (30 cm) compound leaves containing five to seven leaflets are a distinguishing feature of a pignut hickory tree. The lance-shaped leaves are up to 5″ (12 cm) long and 2″ (5 cm) broad and have finely serrated margins.

Mockernut Hickory Nut (Carya tomentosa)

The mockernut hickory nut (Carya tomentosa) is a drupe-like oval nut with a white color that looks like a nut. The 1.5″ to 3″ (3.8 to 7.5 cm) diameter of a mockernut hickory nut A small edible nut is covered by a thick husk that is difficult to remove. The hickory nut has four ridge lines when it is mature.

White heart hickory (referring to the tree’s wood) and squarenut (referring to the nut’s form) are two other names for the Carya tomentosa. The challenge of opening the nut, which exposes a tiny kernel that is barely worth eating, is what gives the mockernut its name.

Mockernut Hickory Tree Nut Identification: The thin, dark gray bark of a mockernut hickory tree develops into furrows as it ages, making it easy to identify. The compound hickory leaves have five to seven ovate leaflets that are 6″ (15 cm) long.

Bitternut Hickory Nut (Carya cordiformis)

The nut from the bitternut hickory tree has a bitter flavor, hence it is not edible. It is immature (left picture) and mature (right picture) When the round bitternut hickory nuts develop four ribs, they are in the shape of a sphere.

The fig-shaped nuts are revealed when the green husks dry dark brown and split. Inedible bitter nuts are 0.75 to 1.25 inches (2 to 3 cm) long, and they taste terrible.

Bitternut Hickory Tree Nut Identification: The big leaves with seven to eleven leaflets, rounded hard nuts, and gray bark that creates ridges as it ages are some of the distinguishing characteristics of the bitternut hickory tree.

Red Hickory Nut (Carya ovalis)

The nut from the red hickory tree is a round nut with a dark husk that contains a tan-colored nut inside. The red hickory nut has a creamy white color and a sweet flavor to its meat. It can, however, be harsh at times. A 1″ to 1.5″ (2.5 – 3.8 cm) long red hickory nut is available.

Red Hickory Tree Nut Identification: The gray, fissured bark of a red hickory tree, pinnately compound leaves with five to nine leaflets, and small rounded black nuts growing in clusters of two or three are all characteristics.

Sand Hickory Nut (Carya pallida)

The sand hickory tree’s nut is the tiniest of the hickory nuts. A pointed top and flattened bottom characterize the oval sand hickory nut. A little tan-colored nut, between 0.5″ and 1.5″ (1.3 – 3.8 cm) long, is covered by a light brown thin husk.

The kernel of sand hickory nuts is delicious. The flattened, oval form and thin shell of sand hickory nuts are two characteristics that set them apart. Brown flesh with a sweet flavor is covered in a hard shell. Pecan substitutes include sand hickory nuts.

Sand Hickory Tree Nut Identification: The relatively smooth bark, shallow furrows, small lanceolate leaves, and tiny hickory nuts distinguish a sand hickory tree.

Scrub Hickory Nut (Carya floridana)

The scrub hickory nut is a spherical rounded nut that grows in clusters of three and belongs to the Carya floridana family. The scrub hickory nut is called a sweet, delicious, and edible hickory nut. It is native to Florida.

The 1.2″ to 1.6″ (3 to 4 cm) long flat nut is 0.8″ to 1″ (2 to 2.5 cm) in diameter. Multi-stemmed shrub-like trees 10 – 16 feet (3 – 5 meters) tall may be seen growing from scrub hickory. Scrub hickory may reach up to 80 feet (25 meters) as a single trunk tree.

Scrub Hickory Tree Nut Identification: Long 12″ (30 cm) leaves with three to seven lance-shaped leaflets distinguish the scrub hickory tree.

Nutmeg Hickory Nut (Carya myristiciformis)

The immature nut (left image) and mature nut (right image) from the nutmeg hickory tree have silvery stripes and speckles. The thin husk of each nutmeg hickory nut forms four distinct ridges, measuring roughly 1″ (2.5 cm) long.

A delicious, sweet kernel is surrounded by a thick brown hickory nutshell. The resemblance of the fruit to the aromatic spice nutmeg Myristica fragrans is what gives Carya myristiciformis its common name. The spice, on the other hand, is not related to the nutmeg hickory nuts.

Nutmeg Hickory Tree Nut Identification: Large, pinnately compound leaves that measure up to 14 inches (35 cm) long are one of the identifying characteristics of a nutmeg hickory tree. Each leaflet is covered with serrated margins and has five to nine leaflets. Scaly, reddish-brown bark covers the nut-bearing tree.

Pecan (Carya illinoinensis)

The immature pecan nut (left picture) and mature pecan nut (right picture) are two of the most well-known hickory nuts. The greenish-gold husk of the pecan nut is oval to oblong in shape, and it is identified by this. Pecan nuts are about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long and 1 inch (2.5 cm) broad. The nut becomes a coppery brown color as it matures.

The flavor of pecans is buttery and sweet. An oblong, cylindrical form and a dark brown color characterize the edible portion of the nut. The ridges on pecan nuts run the length of the nut. The enormous nuts are usually found in four-nut clusters. Inside the nutshell, the fruit is split into two halves.

As a snack, you may eat pecan nuts directly from the tree. Moreover, in the United States’ southern states, the delicious nuts are employed in baked goods.

Pecan Tree Identification: One of the biggest hickory species, the pecan nut tree can grow to be 100 feet (30 meters) tall. The pointed leaflets on compound leaves are the easiest way to identify a pecan tree. On a leaf, the fern-like pecan tree leaves have nine to seventeen leaflets and grow up to 20 inches (50 cm) long.

Harvesting Hickory Nuts

In regions with woodlands and deciduous forests where hickories thrive, collecting Hickory nuts in the autumn is popular. Despite the fact that all hickory species produce nuts every year, they do so only three times.

Hickory nuts may be found on the forest floor during bumper years. You should leave the hickory nuts to dry in a warm location after gathering a large amount of them. You may store the nuts for up to one month after two weeks in a cool area.

You can also save the delicious nuts in the freezer for many months after removing the flesh from the shells.

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