Sunday, October 6, 2013


One bright autumn morning back in the old days when kids walked to school, at the corner of Marquette Street and Washington Avenue a tree I had never noticed before stood chrome-yellow and sunlit and beneath it on the leaf-covered sidewalk were glowing dark warm chocolate-brown nuts or pods, glossy like Hershey bars and finely oiled. Marveling, I lost track of time. It was my first experience of wonder. At last I pocketed one, crossed Washington Avenue, and half a block from school the bell rang and I ran so as not to be late to my first-grade class, because nobody then was late for school. All day I felt and gazed at this marvel I now know as a horse chestnut or a "buckeye," not edible but beautiful. The glossiness faded, but the wonder of that discovery is still with me and is part of why I live here today.

Well, today after too much work and no fun I came home and noticed that last night's little rainstorm had knocked some nuts and branches out of the shagbark hickory next to the house. I'd picked some nuts back in August, but now their outer shells had darkened and dried enough to fall to earth, split open and show, or fling to the winds, the ivory-shelled seed shaped like an acorn with pleats and no cap, containing the prized wild hickory nut.

So I began to gather them, and, getting my basket, poked around beneath the other shagbark hickories in my yard, gleaning dozens and then a couple of hundred hickory nuts, some still in their tailored casings. This was the most fun I had all day, and early tomorrow I'm off to the Divine woods with my basket to see if I can't gather a couple more pounds of wild hickory nuts to dry and then crack and eat, or stir into chocolate fudge, and to give away at Christmas, as the trees have given them to any creature who will stop and notice the bountiful earth beneath their feet.

1 comment:

Pablo said...

I'm trying to grow some buckeyes in my woods. Two years old and still alive. I have plenty of hickory nuts, but the squirrels seem to get the walnuts before I can.

Nuts like these on the running trail, however, are a particular hazard.