Carya ovata

Continuing with the plant and food diversity series today, we have a photograph shared by Robert Klips, aka Orthotrichum@Flickr (original image via the BPotD Flickr Pool). Thank you!

Daniel Moerman’s excellent Native American Ethnobotany provides a number of food uses of shagbark hickory by First Nations peoples, with the listing of food uses by the Iroquois being the most extensive. Iroquois uses included: drinking the liquid of crushed and boiled nutmeats as a beverage; feeding the oil from crushed and boiled nutmeats to babies, and crushing the nuts for use as ingredients in breads, puddings, gravies, and soups. Many First Nations ate the nuts raw, and at least some peoples harvested these for use as a food in winter. Another use common across different peoples was to use the tree to produce sweeteners. Sugars were either extracted from the running sap or from boiling the hickory chips.

Shagbark hickory is also used indirectly to gather food. Due to its elasticity, the wood was used for the construction of bows and arrows (i.e., hunting). The weight and toughness of the wood was also desirable for the construction of ploughs and early farm implements. While some of these uses may no longer be common, the smoke from the wood remains in use as a popular flavouring and preservative of meats and cheeses.

Carya ovata is native to much of the eastern USA as well as small portions of Ontario and Quebec. It can grow to 40m (130ft) tall, though it averages perhaps half that height. Additional photographs of Carya ovata are available via Wikipedia.

Carya ovata

5 responses to “Carya ovata”

  1. bthyme

    I remember that my grandmother and I used to fill muslin flour sacks with hickory nuts every fall. We lived in northern Illinois on a small lake; the northern shore was forested, mainly with shagbark hickories. Shelling the nuts is very tedious because they are so small, but I don’t think there is a sweeter, tastier nut in the world.

  2. elizabeth a airhart

    i remember fall and the big bags of nuts of all kinds in the house
    one could go to the farmers markets where the nuts were in big loose sacks
    we had old german nutcrackers and blue and white china handeled
    nut picks the little hicorys were so hard to open along with the brazils
    nuts- thanksgiveing would not be the same with out a big bowl of nuts
    andrew jackson seventh president of the united states was called old hickory
    the photo is fine i can almost feel the dry leaves under my feet

  3. Chris Neumann

    Hickory is still the preferred wood for striking tools such as hammers, axes, mauls and sledges. Its mentioned elasticity combined with toughness makes it perfect for these tools. The manufacturers of some of the finest, hand-forged Swedish axes use only American hickory for their handles.

  4. Old Ari

    It is a pity you didn’t show a pic of he tree to let people see the reason for the “Shag-Bark”, name. I had one on my lot many years ago. Loved those nuts.

  5. Daniel Mosquin

    Well, I did include a link to additional photographs. I’m trying to keep number of images on each BPotD entry low for the moment because of this flaky server.

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