Oct 27 2013
Here’s something I literally stumbled on in Schenley Park: shagbark hickory nuts (Carya ovata).
The big round balls, which cradle easily in the palm of my hand, are husk-covered nuts. They’re green when ripe but turn brown with age (bottom right). Their four sections naturally come open as the nut ages and sometimes burst when they hit the ground.
I didn’t need any special tools to open the husks, just my fingers. At first I didn’t realize they were merely husks so I thought it was odd that they didn’t protect the nut but…
The nutshell is another story (center of the photo). Irregularly shaped and slightly larger than a quarter, I tried to open it by cutting and other gentle means but it was impossible. The meat inside is reputed to be sweet but I had to destroy the nut to taste it.
Hmmm. Get out a hammer or hire a squirrel.
I got out the hammer.
The first nut had very shriveled meat inside. Perhaps it had been attacked by a bug.
The second and third nuts looked promising except that the meats resembled dried Chinese wood ear mushrooms and they tasted like nothing. (My photo doesn’t do this justice.)
Either I was doing something wrong — quite possible — or these nuts are not as good as described.
I wonder how many nuts the squirrels spend time opening only to find that the meat inside was not worth it.
(photo by Kate St. John)