A Nutting We Will Go….

By  | October 6, 2017 | Filed under: Interesting Facts, News

For both Native Americans and early colonists of our country, foraging for nuts was a large part of preparing for the winter months. Nuts are compact, easy to store and are rich sources of protein, dietary fiber, vitamins and antioxidants.

Foraging for nuts, or nutting, as it is also known, is a pleasant way to spend time in the woods and bring home a little treat.  Seven easy to find “Wild Nuts”….Go get you some:

Acorns

Acorns

The seeds from oak trees are plentiful around most of the country this time of year. Acorn kernels provide protein and energy-rich carbohydrates. The trouble is that most people’s first taste of a raw acorn is a bad experience. That is because acorns are filled with tannins.  The seeds from oak trees are plentiful around most of the country this time of year. Acorn kernels provide protein and energy-rich carbohydrates. The trouble is that most people’s first taste of a raw acorn is a bad experience. That is because acorns are filled with tannins.

 

Beechnuts

Beechnuts

The beech tree produces a tasty nut that tastes similar to a walnut and is high in protein content. These trees produce nut casings each year, but they only have full nuts every three years or so.  If there is an abundant beech tree near you, better hurry to gather these nuts, as they are a favorite with squirrels and raccoons.  Beechnuts will spoil quickly, so it’s a good idea to dry roast them soon after harvesting. To prepare beechnuts, roast them in the shell in full sun (if you have a squirrel-proof spot) or in a slow oven. Then place the nuts between two cotton towels and rub them to remove the shells.

 

Black walnuts

Black walnuts

Black walnut trees are prized for their rich, dark wood and for their tasty nuts. Once again, you will get some stiff competition from four-legged creatures for these nuts. You also will have a tricky time getting to the delicious nutmeat.  You pretty much have to smash your way in with a hammer, combining shell fragments with edible nut pieces in the process. Another problem is that the brown juice inside the shell will stain anything with which it comes in contact.  Naturalist Euell Gibbons suggested wearing heavy boots and stomping the husks off with your feet.

 

Butternuts

Butternuts

Butternuts have the same permanent staining problem as black walnuts, but they are a bit easier to crack open. The tasty butternut is a nutritional powerhouse, packing 28 percent protein, 61 percent fat and about 3,000 calories per pound.  The kernel can go rancid quickly, so shell and use butternuts soon after you have husked and dried them. You may eat them raw, roasted or baked in cakes or pies.

 

Hickory nuts

Hickory nuts

Hickory nuts are easier to crack than walnuts or butternuts, but you still will need a hammer or other tool. Hickory nut gathering can be a frustrating process. Although several kinds of hickory trees produce fruit with delicious nutmeats, others produce fruit that is quite bitter. And it can difficult to tell one kind from the other.  The two most desirable hickory nuts:  The shellbark hickory, which has rough, loose bark that separates in narrow strips and the shagbark hickory, which has a fringed trunk, with long, loose strips of bark that shed and accumulate at the foot of the tree.

 

Pecans (wild and regular)

Pecans (wild and regular)

Do you know that pecans are actually a type of hickory nut? They are, but unlike their cousins, pecans are easy to shell and are both meaty and delicious. There are no bitter or inedible types of pecans.  Pecans are grown commercially in orchards, but roughly half of the nation’s market crop is produced from the native species. Wild pecans are a bit smaller than commercial varieties, but their shells crack easily to yield whole, sweet kernels.

 

 Pine nuts

Pine nuts

Although all pine trees produce a nut, there are only a few varieties that produce edible nuts. Most of these varieties are found in western North America and include stone pine, ponderosa pine, sugar pine, pinon pine and digger pine.  In the fall, the cones of these trees will open, exposing their large seeds. Shelling can be done by hand.  Pinons can be eaten raw or roasted. You can crack the shell between your teeth and eat the inner meat as you would with sunflower seeds.

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