Native to Asia and North America, Hickories and Pecans have been used for food, wood, and fuel since people have been around to use them. These trees have been developed for larger and sweeter nuts, and the Pecans have had the most development so far.
- The name “Hickory” comes from the Algonquian Indian (Native American people group) word pawcohiccora, meaning the nut from the Hickory tree.
- Pecan and Hickory Nuts are not technically nuts… they are considered “drupes” or even “tryma”. A drupe is a fruit with a single seed inside. So the “nut” of these plants have a soft fruit that dries and splits to reveal the seed… what we call the nut. A true nut is a fruit which forms a hard shell to cover the seed, and this hard shell (the fruit) does not split open on its own. Confused yet? It may be easiest to call it a nut!
- “Papershell Pecans” are pecans that have such thin shells that the shell can be cracked by just squeezing together two nuts in your hand… some are so thin, that the shells can be cracked by just squuezing one nut between two fingers. However, these nuts are much more prone to cracking on the tree when the nut swells during heavy rains.
- Pecans have nuts
- Shagbark Hickory have nuts about 1.5 inches (4 cm) long
- Shellbark Hickory have nuts about 2.5 inches (6 cm) long
- The Hican is a cross between a Pecan (C. illinoinensis) and another Hickory species (Carya species)… so in reality, there are a wide variety of trees appropriately named Hican. Most hybrids have poor nuts, but the named Hicans typically produce very large and tasty nuts; although, they usually produce less nuts than either of its parents.
USING THIS PLANT
- Nut – Raw. Excellent taste in both Pecans and selected Hickories.
- Nut – Cooked. Used in desserts, breads, baking, etc.
- Nut – “Milk” can be made from Pecan nuts
- Nut – Oil. An edible oil can be pressed from Pecans
- General insect pollen plant – attracts beneficial insects which feed on the pollen of these trees
- Wildlife food
- Wildlife shelter
- Windbreak plant
- Sap is edible (Hickories) – can be tapped like Maples and reduced (with heat) to make syrup. I have yet to try this syrup, but the reports on flavor I have found range from very good to fair and slightly bitter. Interesting.
- Coppice Plant
- Wood used for poles, posts, fence posts, stakes, tool handles (axes!).
- Wood used for fuel (firewood), charcoal.
- Wood is a great wood for smoking meats.
- Dynamic Accumulator – Potassium and Calcium for all species; Phosphorus in Shagbark Hickory (C. ovata)
- Biomass Plant – large tree with lots of leaf-fall every Autumn that can be left to decompose and build the forest soil, or it can be moved and used in other places or composted.
Highly variable on species and size of the tree. Hickories produce less than Pecans; Improved varieties often produce more than unimproved and wild species, although the hybrid Hican will produce less (but larger) nuts than the Pecan. 50 lbs (23 kg) is not uncommon for a 10-20 year old tree. Pecans can produce up to 100 lbs (46 kg) when they are 20-25 years old. A mature Pecan that is 75 years old or older can produce close to 500 lbs (225 kg) of nuts. There are some Pecans that have yielded over 1,000 lbs (450 kg) of nuts in a season!
Harvesting: Autumn. Although if you have Pecans in more warm locations, you may harvest all the way through January. Pecans and Hickory are typically harvested after they have fallen from the tree; however, some people (and commercial operations) use nets to catch the nuts during harvest season.
Storage: Can be used right away, but if the nuts are dried, they can store for a few years.