Category Archives: Nuts / Seeds

Foraging Wild Nuts: Pine Nuts

Photo of Eastern White Pine Cone Scales

Ever wondered where pine nuts come from?  From pine tree cones*, of course!  This partly dismantled cone of Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) didn't have any pine nuts to show (botanically speaking they are seeds), but the paired indents on the underside of each bract mark where the seeds developed.  Nearly mature, unopened cones can be collected and dried or heated to induce opening.  While all of our native species produce edible seeds, none are as large as imported, store-bought varieties.

*These female seed cones are not to be confused with the short-lived male pollen cones.

Foraging Wild Nuts: American Hazelnut

Photo of American Hazelnuts in hand

At the start of the year, I noticed a few American Hazelnut (Corylus americana) shrubs growing just a short walk from my home.  Every couple of weeks, I checked them for signs of awakening.  By the end of March, their dangling male catkins had expanded in size and begun to release pollen, and their small female flowers popped out of winter twig buds.  In June, the twigs were covered with rough leaves, and the fertilized female flowers had changed considerably.  By late August, the hairy twigs held clusters of green husks, many of which surrounded full-size, still-in-the-shell nuts (others held compromised nuts, or were just plain empty).  As I gathered some of these clusters, next year's male catkins were already visible. The cycle of flowering and fruiting had come full circle. (Click on any photo for a larger view.)

Note: Janet over at One Acre Farm has written an excellent piece on foraging hazelnuts!

Foraging Wild Nuts: Black Walnut

Photo of Black Walnut

Have you ever noticed one of these rolling into a street in autumn? Your mind might've labeled it an apple, matching it to a more common search image. But this is no heirloom apple – it is the fruit of a Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) tree. Within this green husk lies a thick, tough shell containing a nutrient dense nut. The flavor of Black Walnuts is stronger – and I dare say, more interesting – than that of the commercially grown walnut. Keep your eyes open and scan the streets for large Black Walnuts dropping fruit near you.

Warning: If you end up gathering some nuts, I should warn you that the husks will stain unprotected hands for a week or more.  Consider wearing gloves unless you want to call attention to your foraging activities.  Read up on Black Walnuts in a credible foraging guide for more details regarding processing and use.  Samuel Thayer's book Nature's Garden has an excellent chapter on this wild food.