If you love pecans—especially in a well-made, mouth-watering pecan pie—then you’ll love the hickory nuts produced by the amazing shagbark hickory tree. Native to Indiana and its neighboring states, this towering giant is unique among its hickory clanmates.
What does it do?
Providing food, shelter, dye, tools, sugar and other useful products, the shagbark hickory tree is a diamond mine in the middle of the forest. Its timber is hard and the wood is useful for making handles and ladders. Natives used this sturdy wood for manufacturing bows. The bark produces a fine yellow dye, and it can be tapped for the production of sugar and syrup. Eating shagbark hickory nuts rewards the dinner with an ample amount of magnesium and thiamine. All hickory species (17 varieties, with 13 native to the United States)—which includes the easy-to-harvest thin-shelled pecan—produce edible nuts, with the shagbark considered the most flavorful.
About the herb
An ancient giant in the forest, the shagbark hickory tree often lives 200 years and reaches over 120 feet heavenward. Easily recognized by its plate-like bark that appears to be stripping away from the tree, this native of Eastern North America requires 40 years of growth to attain commercial seed-bearing age. Its foot-long compound leaves feature five (sometimes seven) leaflets that produce an apple-like fragrance when bruised. The fruit (nut) is the size of a large walnut, with sweet meats that are considered the best tasting among all hickory nut species.
A good source of protein and trace minerals, shagbark hickory nuts should be enjoyed raw in salads to gain the maximum nutritional benefits. Commercial syrups made using the tree’s bark are available and this tasty addition to your breakfast cereal, pancakes and waffles takes you down the road least travelled when compared with other syrups made from maple trees and other familiar plant sources.