Hickory nuts are starting to fall from the trees. The squirrels get most of them but the thud of hickory nuts hitting the roof of the metal shed or landing in the bed of my truck is a common sound this time of year. Not every nut that falls is good to eat. I can only distinguish between good and bad by cracking them open, but the squirrels know. A nut found on the ground with a squirrel’s teeth marks on it has been accidentally dropped from above and is guaranteed to contain a healthy nut.
Wild hickory nuts do not come in Post® cereal boxes nor do they particularly taste like Grape Nuts®. (Check out this 1970’s Grape Nuts commercial with Euell Gibbons, here). It would be nice if hickory nuts did come in a box. Extracting the meat from the hard shells is a tedious, time consuming task almost as difficult as shelling black walnuts. The precious meat can only be coaxed out of the tight chambers in tiny pieces at best. It is easiest immediately after the nut has fallen from the tree when the meat is still rubbery and flexible.
Wild hickory nuts have a unique flavor which is stronger than its relatives, pecans and walnuts, but not as strong as black walnuts. Needless to say, one is not likely to have the patience to amass large quantities of the shelled nuts, but fortunately, because of the distinct flavor, a small amount imparts a significant flavor contribution to a recipe. I am hoping to get enough shelled hickory nuts together this year to create something interesting and delectable.