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How to Forage for Edible Nuts in the Wilderness

Learn how to forage for edible nuts from NYC Outward Bound instructor Marko Yurachek in this wilderness survival skills video from Howcast.


Okay, so I'm not going to go over acorns, because most people know what an acorn looks like. But this is a tree that's a shag bark hickory. You can tell why it's called a shag bark hickory if you look at the bark, it looks relatively shaggy and it produces hickory nuts. Shag bark hickories produce the best hickory nuts, really, of all the hickories. They look kind of like this. They're super hard. Very popular with squirrels, so they're nice to bait a squirrel trap with. One of the ways that people that collect lots of hickory nuts tell if they're good, and the same thing with black walnuts, which I have some right here I'll show you, is you can float them in water. If they sink to the bottom, then they have a lot of meat in them. If they float to the top, then they're probably hollow.

They're hard to break, but we might be able to break one open and show you what's inside. So this one would have floated to the top. It's empty. We'll take a look in this one. We're not doing the float test, we're just picking them up and cracking them and see what we get. This one also is empty. These are older nuts, that's probably why the squirrels have not worked on them. Again, we're not getting anything out of these. These are hickory nuts. That's what they look like. We'd have to pick up a whole bunch, and the best way to tell if they're viable before you break them open is to float them in some water.

On the other hand, we have black walnuts. Black walnuts, these are past their prime. On the black walnut tree, these are green. If you can pick them when they're green and then let them dry on your own, they're going to be great. Oftentimes when you get them at this stage, they've been infested with worms or insects. Not that the worms and insects aren't edible, but sometimes you're not going to get as nice a nut meal with them. Black walnuts are probably some of the most delicious nuts, and they're prime bait for squirrel traps. In fact, I had a bunch of black walnuts setting out. I was going to prep them for myself, and before I knew it, because I was drying them in the sun, they were all eaten. So these are great for squirrel traps.

One of the things that black walnuts do which is kind of interesting is they make a really black, inky dye. If you put black walnut juice on yourself, you're going to have this stain. You can stain or color clothes or cloth with it. You can also use it for camouflage. If you wanted to camouflage yourself, you can make a camo pattern with black walnuts.

This mushy part on the outside is not what you want. You want to get through the mushy part to the hard nut on the inside. Instead of cleaning through the whole thing, I'll show you some that I've already cleaned. These are the black walnuts once they've already been cleaned. The same thing holds true with black walnuts. If you float them in water, if they're infested with insects, they'll usually float. Otherwise, they'll sink. The heavier ones are the ones that you want.

Also hard to break, but they have a really delicious meat inside. The black walnuts along with the hickory nuts are most delicious if they're roasted, so you can set them by your fire and you can cook them on the fire. Oh, this one's great. Oh, yes. This one has plenty of delicious meat in it. I think this is some of the tastiest nut that you can get, really, really good. Excellent, excellent, excellent. Highly sought after, by the way, on the Cooking Channel and other shows like that. There's your black walnut. That was a really good one, and I definitely am enjoying eating it. I'll try another.

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