Learn the common and scientific names of commonly-found edible wild nuts.
Chapter 2: Naming the Edible Wild Plants
2.2 – Nuts
Who hasn’t heard of the deliciously irresistible nutty and chocolaty staple product known as Nutella? It is a hazelnut spread that is completely addictive to eat and was the way most people learned about hazelnuts.
Common Name: Corylus Species
Location: Hazelnuts are somewhat cosmopolitan and are found all over Europe, Turkey, the United States and the Northern Hemisphere from China through Asia.
Description: Hazelnuts grow on small trees and shrubs with oppositely patterned leaves that are round and jagged. The brown cocoa-nuts are hard shells and wrapped in the leafy husk. If you do not look real carefully, it can be pretty easy to miss locating some hazelnuts because they seem to hide within the thick leaves. They wind up being completely missed my many from being obscured where you might think you are only looking at leaves
When to Find It: You will want to start searching for hazelnuts around the end of August and the beginning of September and gather them while they wrap themselves in leaves. Filberts can also be sold, in general, local markets or regional orchids.
Eating the Plant: Eat Hazelnuts prior to them falling. If they do fall, it is highly likely that predators, like squirrels and other smaller mammals, has already sampled it. You definitely would not want to eat something that has already been in their clutches. Other than the dangerously guilty Nutella spread, you can also use hazelnuts in your bread, cereals, and cheesecakes.
Acorns are a squirrel’s go-to snack year round. For some reason whenever I picture an acorn, I am always reminded of that silly squirrel that always followed acorns, even when it was stupidly dangerous; in the movie “Ice Age”. It is a nut that is native to Native American tribes throughout the northern areas of the United States to the Pacific and Atlantic as a staple food. Acorns were especially popular back in history that there were even wars made as to who would have control of the greatest oak forests.
Common Name: Quercus Species
Location: Acorns are everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere. The various types of species exist in eastern and western parts of the United States, as well as in Asia and Europe.
Description: Acorns are above grand trees that have deciduous leaves, which tend to fall off often. The white oak trees have leaves that are rounded, and the red oak trees have leaves that have pointed lobes. They are chestnuts shade of brown with a striated crown on top its head and flat elevated end. This nut is referred to as acorns because they have a cup like structure that exposes them.
When to Find It: It would be hard not to find these nuts. The white oak group matures within a year whereas the red oak group takes two years. Both these types will ripen and fall sometime during the beginning of fall season. These nuts arrive during the month of August, and they will continue to fall up until October.
Eating the Plant: Since there are two types of acorn trees, you will want to pick a favorite, right? I would recommend going to the white oak group and gather the most massive acorns that you discover. Put the nuts on a flat surface indoors, and give it some time to dry out for a couple of days. You will know it is ready when you can see the nutmeat separating from the shell. Finish the job and crack open the shells and boil the nutmeat. Change the water at least each thirty minutes or until the water turns visibly red. Move on to roast drying and grinding the product to make to types of textures: fine enough for flour or a course pebble-like product. You can use the flour for bread, cake or muffins, or you can use the nut as a meat substitute. Once you mold and cook the nut, it makes a wonderful hamburger. The kids will love its taste, and you will love how much healthier it is.
The pecan is the most notorious type of hickory nut that sells in stores. Other species like bitternut hickory is a type that has a bitter flavor to it that some may either love or not. Shagbark is a very popular type of hickory nut that is in high demand, and you can find them in just about every farmers market.
Common Name: Carya Species
Location: This nut is scattered all throughout the Northern Hemisphere
Description: Hickory nuts or grown on medium sized trees that have compound, oppositely patterned leaves that the jagged shaped. The nuts securely encased with a hard-shelled outer body whose husks are partially split open. Hickory is a very distinctive nut, and there are no lookalikes.
When to Find It: These nuts begin to drop towards the end of August. Several trees in their good years can make you more hickory nuts than you could ever physically collect on your own.
Eating the Plant: You can gather hickory nuts that are within your reach on top of a tree. You can gather those that rest on the ground in a good year since there is a surplus of nuts for even small mammals to be able to take everything. You can dry or cook the nuts as a snack on its own, in your cereal or substitute them for pecans in a pie.
We are most familiar with the English, or Persian, walnuts. But, other types such as the black walnuts is also growing more popular to be used in foods because of its distinctive flavor and aromatic smell it emits.
Common Name: Juglans nigra
Location: You can find this nut in few areas; it is predominately a Northern Hemisphere genus. It also grows in places like Ontario, Canada, south to Florida on the east coast of North America as well as in Argentina. You can find these walnuts still shelled and sold in farmers’ markets.
Description: Black walnuts grow on gigantic trees with opposite, compound leaves. The fruit of the nut is very massive and hard yet it is astonishingly very fragrant. The fruit is green while it is still developing, but it becomes brownish beige when it is ripe. There are no other species of nuts that look like this one.
When to Find It: During the early summer, the fruits begin to form small circular green masses. Even at this early stage, the walnuts be gathered for use. During early fall, around the month of September, the nuts mature and begin to fall where you can easily collect dozens of them without worry of small predators helping themselves first.It is because the shells are difficult to pry open.
Eating the Plant: While you are gathering and processing the walnuts, you will want to use gloves because the oil it emits can irritate your skin. They are the easiest to collect once they fall. Allow them to air out for several days on a flat surface somewhere indoors to let the outer husk soften. Dawn on your gloves again at this point and start to peel the outer layer to reveal the hard shell. It is not a breezy kind of task to crack the shells by using a nutcracker. Instead, it is recommended that you just use a hammer to crack it open. You will want first to put them in a paper bag so that they do not scatter in a million pieces all over the place. Follow up by using a nut pick to separate the nut from the shell completely. Another method is to deposit your walnut in the driveway and run over it with your car as a clean and simple way to open it. You can add this wonderful smelling nutto your cereals, icecream or used as a nut in your bread. When the walnut is still green, you can use it for pickling and for making liquors.
Beechnuts grow on a very distinct tree. They are known by many people, even to those who do not know a single thing about trees in general because of their peculiar characteristics. The tree is gray-barked, one that many people tend to carve their names on, and there are not many out in areas untouched.
Common Name: Fagus Species
Location: Found in Europe, Asia, and North America. Beechnuts grow across the Northern Hemisphere, extending as far out as Mexico.
Description: Beech nuts grow on tall trees that display a unique gray colored bark, and the leaves are patterned to face opposite to each other. The buds of this nut are dramatically long and have several sharp pointing, scales at the surface. The fruit of the nut is a sealed, prickly husk that can open to show an array of brown, shiny, and triangular shaped seeds.
When to Find It: The trees do not bear fruits each year, however, when they do grow it is be unmistakable to miss them during the fall season.
Eating the Plant: You can gather Beechnuts when they fall off of a tree and to the ground. When you gather these tightly closed husks and bring them home, the husks will open on its own. The real effort is when you have to remove those stubborn husks from the branches. Once the core is in sight, you can hit the triangular seeds at any edge to bust it then use a nut pick to extract the nutmeat. Beechnuts make a great snack when you roast them and add a dash of salt to it. You can crush it to powder to make it into flour for baking purposes too. The nut is also great to make into an oil or beechnut butter. You may cook the young leaves for use as a potherb. In Europe, the wood of the tree is used to add flavor to beer; In Spain it adds flavor to a sheep’s milk cheese; in the Czech Republic, it enhances the taste of ham.
This type of nut is commonly associated with Christmas season and the holidays as much as the presents. The smell of chestnuts over an open fire is very aromatic and smells divine, even to those who pass it. Chestnuts are more than just an adorned holiday meal, and you will see them in various countries during different times of the year.
Common Name: Castanea Species
Location: Chestnuts are located all throughout the Northern Hemisphere.
Description: The trees that carry the chestnuts are big, and it has jagged leaves that face in opposite directions. The flower of this type of tree does not have the greatest smell to it, and they dangle from the tree like yo-yos. The green colored fruit balls are sharp and impossible to gather without protecting your hands.
When to Find It: Chestnut trees begin flowering during the early summer. You will want to return during the fall, around September, to gather the nuts. Remember – no using your bare hands. They can also be bought in local food markets, from street vendors when they are roasted or at regional orchids.
Eating the Plant: The first step when you are gathering the chestnuts is to put on gloves. It is safe and easy to step on the fruit, with shoes, to smash the hush and separate it from the single nuts that rest in the core. You may roast them in the oven until you see the outer layer starts to pull back, showing its yellow skin. Chestnuts are great to eat as a snack, but it can also be incorporated to complement other foods or desserts. In France, the flowers of a chestnut tree are highly adored to create a dark, rich and slightly bitter tasting honey.
The Foragers Bible
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