How to Make Nut Milk from Foraged Hickory Nuts
Learn how to make nut milk from hickory nuts this autumn. This warm beverage is a foraged favorite and – dare we say – better than hot chocolate!
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There’s something very special about getting to know the plants in your neighborhood. Understanding how our ancestors used to live off the land has certainly deepened our appreciation for nature’s bounty.
Cristina and I have spent a lot of time in nature and in community at the Eco-Institute throughout the seasons. In the Fall, in particular, there’s a delicious hickory nut milk recipe that we’ve learned to make thanks to Farmer Dave. This recipe is a certainly a tedious job and one to carry out with friends, time on your hands, and good humor.
What is hickory nut milk?
Most hickory trees (Carya genus, Junglandaceae (Walnut) family) are native to North America and carry fruits very similar to walnuts. Nuts in the Carya genus are edible, but some do taste bitter . These hickory nuts are ready for harvesting around mid Autumn, and can be made into a delectable vegan milk. If you’ve ever learned how to make nut milk from almonds, the general idea is the same, but the process is quite different.
How to identify hickory trees and nuts
We harvested our hickory nuts from a Pignut hickory tree (Carya glabra) at the Eco-Institute in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The leaves are alternate, compound, 8-12” long, with 5 (sometimes 7) lance-shaped and finely toothed leaflets on a smooth petiole. The nuts are pear-shaped, 1-1.5” long, shelled and covered by a woody husk. The kernel is whitish and can taste sweet or bitter. Click for help identifying hickory trees.
Warning: Not all nuts are edible! When learning how to make nut milk, always be 100% sure of you plant identification prior to harvesting or consuming.
Foraging and Husking:
- Gather one or more basketfuls of hickory nuts with friends.
- Place nuts one by one on your board and smash them open with a heavy rock.
- Separate the husk from the rest of the shell and meat. No need to shell the nuts, but make sure shells are cracked open!
- Compost the husks and the black nuts that have gone bad. Keep the hickory nuts with the ripe white meat.
Making the Hickory Nut Milk:
- Place 1 part (e.g. 1 cup) of hickory nuts and shells into a pot.
- Add at least 3 parts (e.g. 3 cups) of water to the pot (otherwise it will be too goopy).
- Simmer for 30 minutes.
- Strain the hickory nut milk through the nut milk bag into another pot or kettle.
- Serve warm with honey. Refrigerate leftovers and drink within 3 days.
In November last year, our pignut hickory harvest had been abundant. This year, it was slim pickings, most likely due to hurricane Florence in September. Thankfully, there was still enough to enjoy a warm cup of hickory nut milk with friends.
We hope you enjoyed learning how to make nut milk from foraged hickory nuts! Have you ever made your own nut milk before? Let us know in the comments below!
If you loved this foraged recipe, you might enjoy learning how to make Horse Chestnut Laundry Detergent, or Farmer Dave’s Chicken of the Woods Burger Recipe or How to Make Pickled Grape Leaves with Lacto-Fermentation.
Christelle & Cristina
 DELAWARE TREES Book – A Guide to the Identification of Native Tree Species by Williams S. Taber, B. F.
Observe and Interact – What a better way to interact with nature than to go out foraging and learning about the gifts your local ecosystem has to offer?
Catch and Store Energy – By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need. If you find that you have an abundance of hickory nuts, you can dehydrate them to save them for later in the year.
Use and Value Diversity – There are 12 hickory species in North America that offer edible hickory nuts in the Fall. Learn how to identify them and how to make nut milk from them.