Hickory Nuts

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

hickory nuts from trees of the genus Carya in the walnut family, include the outstandingly good pecan. Although none of the other species has commercial importance, there are several whose nuts are edible. Three are listed below, all N. American; the hickories of Europe did not outlive the last Ice Age.

  • The shagbark hickory,C. ovata, so named because its bark is shaggy in appearance, is the most abundant and popular. The yield of nuts is low, but the kernels have a good, sweet flavour akin to that of the pecan.

  • The shellbark hickory,C. laciniosa, also has a distinctive bark, and bears larger fruits. Its nuts are regarded by some as the best of the hickories. It is the lowland counterpart of the upland shagbark.

  • The mockernut, C. tomentosa, may also be called white hickory or bullnut. Its nuts have such thick shells that a hammer (for which ‘mokker’ is the Dutch word) is needed to deal with them and reach the sweet kernel.