Saturday, October 24, 2015

"Tastes Like Wald Hick'ry Nuts"

Come a certain week in autumn it's World War One around here with "Bang! Bang!" on the cabin roof and people jumping out of their skins, but it's hickory nuts raining down from the shagbark tree. Can't help but think of Euell Gibbons, a famous wild-foods expert who late in life did commercials for Post Grape-Nuts cereal and, in his Texas accent, bawled the immortal lines, "Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible," and "Tastes like wald hick'ry nuts." He'd be proud that I finally tasted wild hickory nuts from my own tree. They tasted not at all like Grape-Nuts. Furthermore, Gibbons did not die, as was rumored, of stomach cancer but from a ruptured aorta.

Two autumns ago in a trance of delight that lasted two weeks I gathered in a basket several pounds of hickory nuts such as you see here, most from the shagbark just outside but also from hickories in the woods, where I found nuts walnut-sized and walnut-shaped -- every tree's fruit sculptured a little differently. Left them to dry in a basket until Christmastime when they agreed to be cracked -- a little. It took hammers and dental tools to get the tiny, brain-shaped meats out, spraying shards of shell all over and me stepping on them, and about 3 pounds through the pile I gave up and tossed the other nuts out the door for the varmints. In winter now, my favorite wild food is the chives that grow in snow.

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