August 11, 2014

Tree following: nuts, nuts, everywhere

yum

The ground underneath a Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) tree is a dangerous place to be during late summer and early fall--particularly if you have a sizeable squirrel population in your neighborhood. Many times I've come close to getting bopped on the head by falling nuts!

I'm joining in Loose and Leafy's "Tree Following" meme, and my posts each month are about our Shagbark Hickories.

nuts

I suppose the Hickory nut drop probably wouldn't cause serious damage to my head--and might even knock some sense into me. But it can be quite a surprise to see the moderately sized nuts (one to two inches in diameter) dropping from several yards up in the tree.

Someone asked me in the comments of an earlier post if I harvest and eat the Hickory nuts. The answer is "no." And the main reason is that the squirrels get to them first! Even before the nuts are full-size the squirrels gnaw on the branches to dislodge the nuts.

Occasionally, I manage to grab a few nuts as they drop before the squirrels snatch them up, but the nutmeats are quite small at this stage, and hardly worth all the effort for a few bites.

Here are a few observations:

evidence1

Evidence of a squirrel party;

evidence2

More evidence;

evidence3

More evidence;

nuts2

Fresh nuts;

drying

Nuts dried for about a week.

I've read that you should dry the nuts in the sun for two weeks and the husks will naturally pull away from the nut. But if I leave them outside, the squirrels will get them!

So I've been drying them inside in a sunny window for about a week. They're not quite ready, but I'll break them open so you can see what's inside.

husk

Sliced and partially peeled hull;

shell

Hulled Hickory nut in the shell;

nutmeats

And cracked open.

You can see that the nutmeats themselves are rather small. If they had a chance to grow larger before the squirrels got them, however, they might be more substantial and tasty.

The taste?

snack

Apparently, this little fellow thinks they're delish.

Personally, I find them ... rather bland. But maybe if I'm able to get some larger ones and let them dry a little longer, I'll be a convert.

leaf

So, that's a brief update on the Shagbarks. The leaves are still deep green and not much sign of changing color. One could say the trees are at the peak of their productivity--providing food, beauty, shade, and shelter all at the same time.

To read about trees other bloggers are following, visit Lucy at Loose and Leafy.

hangin
Hey, this is my tree!!

39 comments:

  1. In my neighborhood it's acorns and walnuts one must watch out for. I saw a "skydiving" squirrel while walking along the Capitol City Trail near Dunn's Marsh the other day. I heard a terrific crash off to my left, and looked up just as a squirrel and branch went tumbling through the air. Poor little fellow -- I hope he was okay! ☺

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    1. Yikes! I hope the squirrel was OK, too. They're so agile and acrobatic and fun to watch. The juveniles are cute when they wrestle each other and play leap frog. We have acorns (lots of Oaks) here, too, but it's funny: The squirrels seem to prefer the Hickory nuts. Or at least they eat them right away, and store the acorns for later.

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  2. I can imagine there is plenty of "squirrel conversation" going on about where to go for lunch!

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    1. Yes, that seems to be the case, Lynne. The picnic table seems to be a favorite hang-out. We rarely use it (because of the mosquitoes), but the squirrels love it.

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  3. When I was a child we had a Hickory tree. Daddy Mack used to sharpen a horseshoe nail to a sharp point to use for a nut pick. Hickory nuts have a wonderful flavor, worth the effort.

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    1. I hope I can find some larger, more mature nuts before the squirrels get them. And maybe if I dry them longer, they'll taste better. My husband suggested roasting them, so that's an option, too.

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  4. Beth your post brought back memories of our old garden that was surrounded by black walnuts...it looked very similar with remnants of walnuts everywhere and lots of squirrels. I'd say you have some great trees there!

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    1. Yes, they're great trees, and great companions to Oaks. The Black Walnuts must have been challenging for your parents--if they were gardeners. So many plants don't grow well under or near Black Walnuts.

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  5. What fun you must have had taking these pictures! And how wonderful they are....Brava! This is really fun and charming (and educational...)I loved it.

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    1. Thanks, Susie. Yes, it was fun. Yesterday I was a little distracted watching the squirrels and thinking, "That would be a great photo." But I was working on another project, so I didn't take time to try to snap everything. Plus, often by the time I had my camera ready they were off and about in a different part of the garden. They are fun to watch, though.

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  6. That's quite a story! and it's the reason why trees are so important to living creatures.

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    1. Yes, very true, Lula. The nuts benefit the squirrels, but the trees offer shade and shelter to so many species!

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  7. Wow... so interesting! The nuts look so bountiful!

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    1. Yes, they are! We're definitely supporting the local squirrel population!

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  8. Hi,
    Does your tree grow in the Door peninsula you mentioned in your previous post? If so, I might try growing one here as our climate is must be very close to the climate on the Door peninsula.

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    1. Hi Alain: I didn't notice many Hickories in Door County, but they are native throughout the state and actually in Canada, from Ontario through points east. I think they're more plentiful in deciduous forests, but it should survive just fine for you. One thing to keep in mind is the very deep taproot--up to 10 feet deep. So, that would be a consideration in its placement.

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  9. Oh, my! I understand what you are going through with the pesky critters! They seem to have gotten worse around here. I can't grow sunflowers, even though I sometimes try, because they will take the whole heads off before the seeds ripen. They ate the few summer squash I got before the stem borers killed the plants this year. There is a black walnut tree across the street where I garden, and I need to be careful of the dropping walnuts. There aren't many things that will grow there, but I've been pleased that the raspberries have been doing pretty well. I was so mad the other morning when I went to pick some, hoping the birds hadn't eaten many, and saw stems broken down from the weight of the squirrels, and most of the raspberries eaten. Oh, man! Nice photos, though! ;-) Thanks for your nice comment on my last post.

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    1. Oh gosh, Black Walnuts (from what I understand) can be very challenging! We have Black Walnuts up at our cottage. While I don't "garden" much up there (I tend to observe plants more there), I noticed that Black Raspberries have no trouble growing under and near Black Walnuts. I love Raspberries! The squirrels do cause a little trouble around here, but not near as much as the chipmunks. And the rabbits--don't even get me started on them! Actually, the squirrels and chipmunks are very fun to watch!

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  10. I was reading about making syrup from Shagbark hickories using the crushed nuts or nutshells, and the bark. The bark and / or crushed nuts are roasted slightly then simmered to make tea, simmered to reduce volume 25%, then sugar added to make a syrup. I've heard of using some nut tree's leaves to make tea too, particularly walnuts and heartnuts which I grow. But like you the squirrels get all my nuts while still green. At least it keeps them from bothering my apples for a long time.

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    1. Yes, I've heard of that syrup, too. I sort of wanted to try it, but it probably requires a lot of bark. Sometime I'd like to try it, though. I agree--at least the nuts keep the squirrels occupied! They are so fun to watch, too.

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  11. I don't have a hickory tree, but I do have an old, huge Bur Oak which is usually full of acorns. That's where our squirrels like to party:) This reminds me of when I was a girl, we used to go to a nearby woods and collect hickory nuts. As I recall, they were a lot of work cracking them open for a very small nut! I'd let the squirrels have them, too--especially if it keeps them out of the garden.

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    1. The squirrels love our acorns, too. I think they tend to "squirrel them away" for the winter, though, and eat the Hickory nuts right away. Maybe they don't keep as well as acorns? I think if I could get to the Hickory nuts in sizeable numbers before the squirrels, maybe it would be worth it to harvest them. What a fun memory for you, though!

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  12. My mom always used to talk about eating hickory nuts from the nut trees on her family's farm when she was little, but I do wonder how they got so many after the squirrels! I would love to grow these though and taste them. Maybe if they were roasted they would taste better?
    Like a previous poster commented, Hickory syrup was recently in the news. Have you ever tried it? It sounds interesting!

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    1. It's fun to see the squirrels enjoying them. Yes, I do believe if I could get a good bunch, and if they would be allowed to stay on the tree until mature (instead of knocked down early by the squirrels), I would probably like them. Roasting them would probably help, too. No, I've never tried the syrup, but I'd like to!

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  13. Well, you are certainly providing a good feast for the squirrels, they must think it's Christmas with all that food available! I do love them, but when it comes to our gardens they can be a bit pesky sometimes.

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    1. Tee hee. Yes, I believe you are right--they do like the plentiful nuts here. I guess the nuts must keep them occupied. They don't seem to bother my garden too much--not nearly as much as the dratted rabbits, who eat my plants down to the ground!

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  14. Better to be bopped on the head with a hickory nut then to step barefoot on a sweetgum fruit.

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    1. I will have to remember that one! These images are playing around in my crazy head. ;-)

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  15. Have nuts will follow I guess. There is an English Walnut behind my garage, but the squirrels still prefer the bird food - all that peeling. lol.

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    1. Ah, yes. I do believe the squirrels would prefer the bird food here, too. And they did ... until we got an effective squirrel guard several years back. They were so mad at us! Har har. Now they have to settle for Hickory nuts and acorns!

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  16. is your hickory related to walnuts and pecans?

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    1. Hi Diana: They're all in the same family--Juglandaceae--but in different subfamilies. Hickories and Pecans are both in the genus Carya. (I had to look it up, but it makes sense.) ;-)

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  17. Oooh, I can just picture those squirrels, over here they come to my garden with ‘packed lunch’, as I don’t have any nuts! They take nuts from a birdfeeder nearby and come to my garden to bury them, almost every day. Lovely to see your Hickory nuts, I have never seen one.

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    1. They are seriously very fun to watch. The other day, they were playing leap frog under some ground covers. First I'd see a tail, and then a little head pop up ... and then another head ... and then they'd chase each other. I have nuts buried all around my garden. Sometimes they can be a problem, but not near as much as the rabbits--who eat my plants down to the ground. Anything they like that I want to protect has to be surrounded with chicken wire.

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  18. I've always wondered what Hickory looks like...and now I know. At least you have contented squirrels...most likely fat ones too.

    Jen

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    1. Yes, the squirrels are contented ... and fat--especially in the fall. They keep us entertained during the winter, too. Except on the brutally cold days when every creature but the juncos hunkers down. :)

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  19. The nuts may be bland but the leaf with the sun shining through certainly is not! Interesting to see the nut di-section. The squirrel party evidence is fun.

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    1. I find the cellular structure of leaves fascinating. I suppose that might bore some people, but I could sit and look at that type of image for hours. I left some of the nuts in the sun and some kind of bug got into them--so much for that idea. I'll leave them for the squirrels. ;-)

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  20. The squirrel party photo made me chuckle!! I bet they are having a party with all those nuts! I'm still waiting for my Bur Oak tree to get big enough to produce some. I read somewhere they have to be 35 yrs old??? Right now, they develop tiny ones that just drop off before maturing. Whenever it happens tho, I'm betting the squirrels will be thrilled!

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