Practical foraging: hickory nut broth

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A hickory tree in full fall glory

Despite the 24F temperature when I woke up, yesterday I went on an edible plants hike with Darryl Patton, The Southern Herbalist.  We walked on private property that was teeming with hickory nut trees, and they were loaded with nuts.  I discussed the virtues of foraging for hickory nuts a little while ago, but sometimes the nut meats inside hardly seem worth the effort.  The group gathered some to make a broth from hickory nuts — shells and all.  This is a great option for when only smaller nuts are available.

Step 1: Clean off the worse of the dirt and put them in water.  Discard any nuts that float; they’ll be bad.

Step 2: Smash them up.  A couple of gentlemen did the honors using a cinder block and some bricks.  High tech kitchen tools not required.

Step 3: Boil.

Step 4: Strain and enjoy.  We skipped the straining.  This was primitive style.  We just ladled the both off the top and tried to avoid the shells.  Finding the soft nuts made a chewy treat.

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Hickory nut broth (in progress)

We boiled them for about 15-20 minutes, but I imagine if you boil them longer the nutmeats would eventually disintegrate and produce a thicker broth resembling nut milk.  What we got was a rich, smoky broth.  The warmth was quite welcome on a chilly day, and the broth was quite filling, probably due to the oil content in the nuts.  It ended up being my lunch along with a few other wild edibles.

I think the broth would make a great base for soups, especially when paired with some foraged bitter greens, many of which are available throughout the cold weather season.  The rich taste would also stand up well to red meats like bison, venison or beef, or smoked pork.  It will add a hint of hickory smoke grilled flavor.

Although the flavor was worthy of high class kitchen cuisine, it’s also something that can be easily made over a campfire or rocket stove.  Hickory nut broth gets two thumbs up from me.

(By Nicole Castle)

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