Does anyone have any tips for processing hickory nuts and butternuts? Specifically removing the outer husks as well as an easy way to tell if a particular nut is good or bad before spending all the time and energy into removing the husk, curing, and shelling.
I collected my nuts in a children’s play ground where the kids stomped on the nuts for fun. The playground and the trees need to be together. Good, bad, an ugly choice one must face
If I recall correctly, my dad ran butternuts through an old-time, hand-crank corn sheller to get the husks off. I don’t remember how well it worked. How many years did it take your butternuts to start producing? Mine are growing very slowly. Very, very.
The 2 trees I have are both wild, not sure of the age. The smaller of the 2 is probably 25ft tall with a trunk circumference of ~18 inches.
I removed the husks using a flathead screwdriver as a chisel and then removed the remainder with water and a wire brush. Took about 5 minutes per nut and was relatively messy. Make sure you wear gloves because they stain your hands like black walnuts do.
Definetly more of a novelty item than a serious food crop. I can buy a pound of shelled pecans at the grocery store for less than 10$ and A LOT less work.
Aside from the effort required I also want to leave enough nuts for future sustainability as the species is becoming quite rare.
By the time I remember to check my butternuts, they’ve usually dropped, husk material is relatively dry, and easy to separate from the shell. Unlike black walnuts, butternut seems to come away fairly clean - if I did black walnuts that way, they’d be a gooey black mess, and the kernels would likely be stained by degrading husk pigment leaching through.
Even the ‘best’ butternut cultivars are less 25% kernel - that’s a whole lot of ‘wood’ left over after cracking them.
Hickories… just pop the husk off, if they haven’t popped out of them when they hit the ground.
As to determining if they’re ‘good’… you may be able to get an idea just from hefting them… and unfilled nut will be quite light. But… for the most part, you’ll need to remove husks and ‘float’ test them in a bucket of water… unfilled nuts will float, nuts with well-filled kernel will sink. But crack a few ‘floaters’ before discarding them… some with really thin shells may float, even if well-filled.
A lot of the hickories I’ve found still have the husk pretty firmly attached. I cracked a few open and found either underdeveloped nuts or some sort of grub inside. Does the tree tend to abort bad nuts prematurely? Also i suspect squirrels probably chew off some nuts before fully mature. Maybe I’m just looking a little too early. Do i just need to wait a little longer for the main crop to drop?
Some hickories are reputed to abort weevil-infested nuts - I’ve heard claims that J.Yoder #1 shagbark will do that.
Squirrels will definitely cut nuts out before they are ripe.
I checked my local shagbarks yesterday…not dropping yet.
I used to dump walnuts in my gravel driveway and drive over them for a few days. Easy de-husking.
I’ve done that as well, but if you have improved varieties, like Clermont, Thomas Myers, etc., you’ll end up with a bunch of crushed walnuts with embedded grit and gravel.
One of my butternut trees surprised me with 14 butternuts in 2022. None disappeared to squirrels. I picked them around October 1st, then put them on the kitchen counter under a wire basket to keep out mice. We then left on vacation until Thanksgiving. When we returned, the husks were shriveled and the nuts felt light, so I didn’t have my hopes up. We ended up cracking them lengthwise in a hefty vise without removing the husk first, as they are very hard. The meats came out clean in about two pieces. The fourteen nuts yielded about 1/4 cup of meats with a mild excellent flavor. I have read that trees often randomly take a year or two off from bearing, so I am trying not to get my hopes up too high for 2023.
that’s what we did as kids. the hickory trees were right by the playground, there was an area of concrete there and we would bring buckets, fill them, dump them out and stomp on them to crack, then fill the buckets with the nuts
it was a kid’s job every year all in the neighborhood did it.