Monday, September 26, 2011

Fall Treasures ~ Hickory Nut

Fall brings signs Mother Earth is preparing for sleep and it's a wonderful time of year yielding all sorts of treasure. One of my favorite is Hickory nuts from the large 80foot tall beauties that dot our woods and pasture rock hedge rows. Of course once they begin to ripen and fall the race is on to beat squirrels and chip monks to them. They produce in a three year cycle of heavy moderate and no crop. First the large thick outer green shell dries pops open and falls to the ground reveling a small 3/4 to 1 inch diameter light tan smooth hard shell nut. They must be turned on their side and cracked with the blow from a hammer. Once inside there is picking and prying to be done as they are much like the walnut with stiff veins surrounding the meat.

They can be eaten right from the shell raw, toasted, roasted, in cookies cakes and pies to replace walnuts or pecans, in stuffing and vegetable dishes, or added flavor to pork, turkey and tofu. They are a rich source of fiber with magnesium, thiamine, protein and carbohydrates. Storing them is tricky as they won't last at room temperatures because of their high oil content which turns rancid in a couple weeks. Best stored in the frig or cold storage food bin. Long term they are best cracked bagged and stored in freezer for several years. Best of all your not done yet as the empty shells have their use for smoking or burning in a fireplace, wood stove, grill or smoker. Burning shells make the house smell like Hickory Smoke and do wonders for grilled meats or for use in the meat smoker when curing. Every part of these fall treasures is usable they are the total recyclable product that nature keeps gifting us with in bounty.

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