The hickory-nut belongs to the juglandaceae, or Walnut family, and to the group Carya. Of this there are several varieties : The Carya Olivaeformis, (pecan-nut), Alba (shell-bark or shagbark), Sulcata, (Western shellbark), Tomentosa (mockernut, or white heart hickory-nut), Amara (bitter-nut), Poreina (or pignut), and the Aquatica, or water hickory. Among these, the first two are the most valuable for the nuts, although the other varieties are quite as good for timber.
The sterile flowers are in long, cylindrical catkins, three in a cluster, on a common peduncle; the leaflets are sessile or nearly so, of from five to thirteen leaflets. The nuts are globular, or short oval, sweet, edible, and enclosed in a husk which opens by four valves. The shellbark, or shagbark. is considered the best variety for eating purposes; it is so called on account of the bark of the trunk being shaggy and separating in rough strips. The nuts are variable in size, mainly thin-shelled and white; the kernels are large, sweet, and excellent; it is one of the most popular of nuts, the demand being almost unlimited.
Branch with Burs of Nussbanner's Hybrid Hickory.
The Western shellbark differs from the preceding, in having a lighter-colored wood, the leaves more downy, and the nuts larger, measuring two inches long, and pointed at both ends. The kernels are smaller in proportion to the size of the nut than in the preceding, but are easily removed from the shell.
The variety known as the Hales hickory has the thinnest shell and plumpest kernels of any of the hickories. The shell is not much thicker than a pecan shell, and has no sharp ridges running from the base to the point as in other varieties. The mocker hickory-nut and others of similar kinds, have smaller nuts, with thick, hard, shells; though sweet, they are small, and very difficult to remove from the shell, and on this account, they are of little value.
The bitter-nut is similar to those of the above variety, but the kernels are intensely bitter, but when in the milky state are greedily eaten by the squirrels.
The pignut and water hickory also have bitter kernels.
The hickory-nut is strictly an American nut, being found only on the Western continent. The early white settlers found the Indians using the hickory-nut in many ways and storing large quantities of them for winter food, sometimes
Western Shellbark Hickory.
Variation in Form of Wild Nuts. - 1. Quadrangular; 2. Roundish; 2b. Hull of Roundish; 3. Oval: 4. Long Ovate; 5. Roundish Oblique; 6. Ovate Oblique.
Variation in Form Of Wild Nuts.- 1. Ovate; lb. Portion of Hull of Ovate; 2. Long Ovate; 3. Quadrangular; 4. Obovate; 5. Shinar; 6. Meriden; 7. Jackson: 8. Milford; 9. Rice; 10. Woodbourne.
Mocker Nut; Forms of Wild Nut. - 1. Oval; 2. Roundish; 3. Roundish Oblique; 3b. Hull of Roundish Oblique. Pig Nut. - 4. Bracket; 4b. Nut of Bracket in Hull; 5. Fig-Shaped; 5a. Nut of Fig-Shaped in Hull; 6. Roundish Nut in Hull; 7. Specimen from W. R. Stuart; 8. Nut and portion of Hull of a Water Hickory. one family having one hundred bushels. They had no mills in which to grind them, but they made them fine by pounding and putting them into boiling water, working them well with a wooden paddle. The oily part of the liquid was preserved and called by a name which signifies "hickory milk." It is rich, sweet, and delicious, the fat being in the form of an emulsion, like cream. The Indians used it in cooking, especially in hominy and corn cakes. As nut foods are coming into such general use, there may come a day in the future when hickory milk will be again in vogue, and be more highly esteemed by the civilized people than it was by the aborigines.