Hickory nuts are edible with an excellent flavor, and are a popular food among people and squirrels alike. They are unsuitable to commercial or orchard production due to the long time it takes for a tree to produce sizable crops and unpredictable output from year to year. Shagbark hickories can grow to enormous sizes but are unreliable bearers. The nuts can be used as a substitute for the pecan in colder climates and have nearly the same culinary function.
C. ovata begins producing seeds at about 10 years of age, but large quantities are not produced until 40 years and will continue for at least 100. Nut production is erratic, with good crops every 3 to 5 years, in between which few or none appear and the entire crop may be lost to animal predation.
"Hickory" is derived from pawcohiccora, an Algonquian Indian word for the tree's oily nutmeat. The nuts were a food source for Native Americans.
Shagbark hickory wood is used for smoking meat and for making the bows of Native Americans of the northern area. The lumber is heavy, hard, and tough, weighing 63 lb/ cu ft when air-dried, and has been employed for implements and tools that require strength. These include axles, axe handles, ploughs, and skis.
The bark of the shagbark hickory is also used to flavor a bitter maple-style syrup.
Carya ovata, the shagbark hickory, is a common hickory in the eastern United States and southeast Canada. It is a large, deciduous tree, growing well over 100 feet tall, and will live over 350 years. The tallest measured Shagbark, located in Savage Gulf, TN, is over 150 feet tall. Mature shagbarks are easy to recognize because, as their name implies, they have shaggy bark. This characteristic is, however, only found on mature trees; young specimens have smooth bark.
The shagbark hickory's nut is edible and has a very sweet taste.
The leaves are 30–60 cm (12–24 in) long, pinnate, with five (rarely three or seven) leaflets, the terminal three leaflets much larger than the basal pair. The shagbark hickory is monoecious. Staminate flowers are borne on long-stalked catkins at the tip of old wood or in the axils of the previous season's leaves. Pistillate flowers occur in short terminal spikes. The fruit is a drupe 2.5 to 4.0 cm (1.0 to 1.6 in) long, an edible nut with a hard, bony shell, contained in a thick, green four-sectioned husk which turns dark and splits off at maturity in the fall.
The terminal buds on the shagbark hickory are large and covered with loose scales. The word hickory is an aphetic form from earlier pohickory, short for even earlier pokahickory, borrowed from the Virginia Algonquian word pawcohiccora, referring to a milky drink made from ground hickory nuts. Shagbark hickory nuts were a significant food source for the Algonquins.
Red squirrels, gray squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, and mice are consumers of hickory nuts. Other consumers include black bears, gray and red foxes, rabbits, and bird species such as mallards, wood ducks, bobwhites, and wild turkey.
Hickory wood is very hard, stiff, dense and shock resistant. There are woods that are stronger than hickory and woods that are harder, but the combination of strength, toughness, hardness and stiffness found in hickory wood is not found in any other commercial wood. It is used for tool handles, bows, wheel spokes, carts, drumsticks, lacrosse stick handles, golf club shafts (sometimes still called hickory stick, even though made of steel or graphite), the bottom of skis, walking sticks and for punitive use as a switch (like hazel), and especially as a cane-like hickory stick in schools and use by parents. Paddles are often made from hickory.
This property of hickory wood has left a trace in some Native American languages: in Ojibwe, hickory is called "mitigwaabaak", a compound of mitigwaab "bow" and the final -aakw "hardwood tree".
Hickory is also highly prized for wood-burning stoves and chimineas, because of its high energy content. Hickory wood is also a preferred type for smoking cured meats. In the Southern United States, hickory is popular for cooking barbecue, as hickory grows abundantly in the region, and adds flavor to the meat.
A bark extract from shagbark hickory is also used in an edible syrup similar to maple syrup, with a slightly bitter, smoky taste.
The nuts of some species are palatable, while others are bitter and only suitable for animal feed. Shagbark and shellbark hickory, along with pecan, are regarded by some as the finest nut trees.
Shagbark Hickory Nuts Health Benefits:
Many health benefits can be derived from these nuts:
- They are rich in vitamin B1 which helps in the proper functioning of the heart, muscles and the Central Nervous System.
- A major portion of the recommended daily Phosphorus intake can be obtained from one ounce of these nuts.
- It is also rich in Magnesium which helps the kidneys, muscles and heart to function properly.
- The risk of coronary heart disease is low as the nuts contain low amounts of saturated fat.
Stay Prepared! Stay Alive!
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