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.
The hickory nuts are just about ready to fall for 2018. The squirrels are up there eating them, so I know they’re about to fall! It will be a few more days until they are ready to fall. If the squirrels don’t eat them all.
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yo this is Ryan I am taking a little
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stroll in the woods near my house I’m
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doing the first check for hickory nuts
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super excited I will say this year I
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haven’t really been looking at the trees
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a lot of times I’ll walk around and
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check out the trees and this year this
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summer I didn’t so I’m pretty excited to
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thought I heard one falling pretty
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excited to come out here and just see
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how they’re doing
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okay so there’s a shag bark you can see
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this one happens to be so shaggy
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it’s literally peeling off
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I will sustainably harvest some of this
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bark off of a shagbark hickory I don’t
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over harvest but I know where there’s
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enough trees that I can pull a little
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bit off of each tree so if you want some
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hickory shagbark hickory bark smoke and
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I’m not talking about getting high I’m
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talking about smoking your meats man all
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right man look I’m investigating look
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what we got
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signs of debris I’ll tell you exactly
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what that is that’s a squirrel
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stealing my hickory nuts I’m just
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kidding the hickory nuts are there sue
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I’ll share I’ll be happy to share these
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with the squirrels now when they start
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hitting the ground denim not as happy so
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when you see this kind of debris laying
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around that’s really green and broken
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that means essentially that the nuts
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inside there are good enough to eat
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they’re probably they probably have a
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lot of tannins and they’re really hard
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to get to unless you’ve got big squirrel
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teeth and you know you are a squirrel I
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found that it’s really not worth the
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effort to get to those green nuts so
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what you see now is just the shells
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basically I mean there I heard one and
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when they do fall the squirrels are
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roaming the ground looking for those
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green ones and and prying them open and
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here’s one they’re busy over here the
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squirrels so you see what I mean
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you can’t really get to that you can’t
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get to it
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in a couple weeks when they start
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hitting the ground they’ll essentially
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just they’ll be so dry that they
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essentially just hit the ground
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crack open sometimes they’re so dry that
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they actually just break while they’re
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falling there and then you go around
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with your nut wizard and you just pick
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them up I’ll show you that when they
00:03:11,400 –> 00:03:21,810
start falling but today these hickory
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trees are not giving me edible food this
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is just not worth the time but the good
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news is that it seems like there’s gonna
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be a lot of eat green nuts up in the
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00:03:34,660 –> 00:03:40,520
so I’ll come back and check on these in
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a couple weeks so for now what I’m going
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to do is spend my time mapping these
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
Do you have a black walnut or any kind of nut tree? Every year you dread when they drop into your yard. They are so hard to crack that it’s not worth it. Maybe you do have a black walnut cracker, but it only does one at a time. Yeah right!
Those black walnuts are money! They’re free nutrition falling from your tree!
Don’t just dump them into the creek. Get the Best Black Walnut cracker!
Obviously I sell nuts, so I needed a way to crack a lot of nuts quickly. I did a lot of research and kept coming back to the Best Black Walnut Cracker. So I bit the bullet and bought this nut cracker. I’m super glad I did!
I’ve been using this nut cracker for a season. I can’t say if it’s the best crank; because, it’s the only one I’ve ever used. Either way it’s a game changer!
Here are a few things I love about it.
It’s fast! I was cracking each nut one at a time. I have a lot of nuts to churn through and this lets me do it fast.
It’s solid! I can tell that it’s well made. I suspect if I use it correctly then it will last me the rest of my life.
Noelectricity. I know not everybody sees that as a good thing. It means you have to actually turn that crank with your muscles. I see it as extending its life. If the grid ever goes down this thing will still crack the nuts in my yard. Also, motors are complicated and there’s a lot more to go wrong.
I’m certain it will pay for itself. I sell my nuts, but even if all I did was eat the nuts myself it would pay for itself.
Of course this nut cracker cracks more than just black walnuts. It will crack basically any nut that is round. I use it for my hickory nuts and I’m certain it will work for macadamia nuts and maybe even acorns.
If you want to process lots of nuts, especially the notoriously difficult black walnut, then you should definitely purchase this nut cracker.
I made it easy. You can purchase directly from the manufacturer by using the PayPal link below. Please tell them The Nut Job sent you!