Often referred to as mother nature’s best-kept secret, the hickory plant is a resourceful tree used for many purposes.
Its wood is considered one of the best for making the beloved barbeque, but you may not know that you can actually eat its fruit too.
The hickory nut is overlooked many times because of its hard shell.
However, you will be richly rewarded if you take the trouble of breaking open its hard exterior.
Foragers search in a frenzy for this tough nut.
All because of the goodness available at the core of the nut.
The best time to get your hands on them is during autumn.
When the leaves turn color, the nuts ripen and fall to the ground.
So, what do hickory nuts taste like? Let’s find out.
What are Hickory Nuts?
Hickory nuts come from the hickory tree, which belongs to the genus Carya.
Therefore, many people also refer to it as Carya nut.
There are eighteen species in the family, most of them growing in Asia and some in the USA and Canada.
The fruit from the hickory tree may look like a nut, but it’s not considered a ‘true botanical nut’.
They are actually ‘drupes’ or ‘stone fruit.’ Some fruits that are also categorized as drupes are coffee beans, cashew, sapote, olive, mango, etc.
When the trees are grown just for fruit harvesting, they are grafted and cultivated with multiple cultivars.
The same cultivar cannot pollinate because of incompatibility with the same plant.
However, its fruit contains enough genetic variations that the seedlings from the nuts of the same tree can be used to produce more cultivars.
What Do Hickory Nuts Taste Like?
You can eat the nuts as soon as it’s harvested, which is excellent about hickory nuts.
But getting them out of the hard shell may be a task.
There are wide varieties of Carya fruit, including walnut and pecans.
Before you go foraging, you should know that not all species produce edible fruits.
Some can even be dangerous to consume, and you’ll need to have a sharp eye to pick the right nuts.
They are found chiefly during fall in the USA.
This fruit has a high-calorie count within its small fleshy core and is considered the most calorie-dense food found naturally in the wild.
An ounce of cracked and de-shelled hickory can contain up to 190 calories.
Most of these calories are accounted as fat present in the fruit.
Once dried, the nut retains a significant portion of its fat content and has carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, and a small amount of water.
It is, in fact, one of the richest sources of the daily value of Vitamin B and manganese.
Since they are from the same species, hickory nuts tend to have subtle flavor notes similar to that of pecan and walnut.
They have a rich mouthfeel when consumed and have a slightly sweet aftertaste.
Although it’s a fruit, the nut-like edibles pair well with savory dishes and add a pleasant earthy undertone to cooked food.
How to Cook Hickory Nuts?
The flesh of the nuts is excellent to eat on its own, but you can incorporate them into many dishes to elevate them.
One such dish is a traditional native American porridge called ‘Pawcohiccora’.
All you’ll need to do is boil the flesh of the fruit in water and stir continuously until its consistency turns thick and fatty, which means it is ready to eat.
If you’re not keen on having porridge, you can try making a healthy drink.
This also requires boiling the nut, but you’ll have to separate the fat before consuming the liquid.
The oil produced by this method was called hickory mild and used as cooking oil.
Another unique dish to make with this nut is cornmeal-hickory.
The nuts are pounded into a rough paste and boiled with water until a milky broth develops, then cornmeal is added, and finally, maple syrup is added for added taste.
To garnish, you can serve the meal with grits.
People have even incorporated this nut into baked goods by switching out pecans to make a hickory pie.
Or by adding them to chocolate chip cookies which gives the cookies an added dimension of flavor.
Don’t let the hard exterior deter you from harvesting your own bounty of hickory nuts.
They are incredibly healthy and can prove to be a boon to your diet since they are packed with nutrients that your body needs and can be a great addition to your diet.
They are delicious and have such depth of flavor that can be imparted into many dishes.
Also, they are an inexpensive nut that is found growing all over the US.
The next time you come across a hickory tree ladened with fruits, why not pick up a few and use them for cooking a great meal?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are hickory nuts good eating?
Yes, hickory nuts are good eating! Hickory nuts have a sweet and nutty flavor that can be enjoyed both raw or cooked.
They can be eaten as a snack, added to salads or used in baking. When properly prepared, they also make great additions to trail mixes and granola bars.
Why are hickory nuts so expensive?
Hickory nuts are considered a specialty item, so they tend to be more expensive than other types of nuts.
The demand for hickory nuts is also very high in certain areas, as they are often used in recipes and as an ingredient for products such as barbeque sauces.
Harvesting hickory nuts can also be difficult and time-consuming, as it requires special tools and skill. All of these factors contribute to the higher cost of hickory nuts.
Which hickory nuts taste best?
That depends on personal preference. Generally speaking, shagbark hickory nuts have a sweet and flavorful taste that many people find enjoyable.
However, pignut hickory nuts tend to be more bitter in flavor.
For those looking for the best nutty flavor, the black walnut is considered by many to be the tastiest hickory nut.
Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide which type of hickory nut they like best.
How do people eat hickory nuts?
People typically eat hickory nuts in a variety of ways.
Raw hickory nuts can be enjoyed as a snack, while cooked hickory nuts can be added to salads, stir fries, and other savory dishes.
Hickory nuts are also commonly used in baking and making desserts, such as cookies or pies. Dried hickory nuts can also be blended into trail mixes, granola bars, and other snack mixes.
Finally, hickory nuts are often used to make homemade barbeque sauces or added as an ingredient to existing store-bought sauces. Regardless of how you choose to eat them, hickory nuts are a delicious and nutritious treat!