Bitternut Hickory


Bitternut Hickories are well named. They’re rich in tannins and are not really considered edible. Unless, that is, you have an oil press! The nuts are rich in oil and so far have been the backbone of our culinary oil production operation.

Identification of Bitternuts

  • Well-defined ridges on hull
  • 7-11 leaflets
  • Bark is flat (for a hickory)
  • Husk has four parts
  • Nut = ~ 1 inch across
  • Distinctive yellow buds (also called yellowbud hickories)

Where you’ll find them

Another name for a bitternut is swamp hickory. They are riparian trees, loving low lying areas and river banks. But they are also very adaptive and grow in more upland and dryer areas. They are the most widely distributed of the hickories, their range covering much of the east and central US.

Harvest and Handling

Ideally, you want the understory to be clear. If it’s in a lawn, cut the grass close when the nuts start falling and rake the area clean. A leaf rake and a blower are probably the most efficient tools for gathering lots of nuts quickly and separating nuts from twigs and leaves and other trash. If the understory isn’t cleared, harvesting with Nut Wizard is your next best option.

Do not store fresh nuts in plastic buckets for more than a day. After harvest, you want to cure them as soon as possible. Get thee to the Nuttery! If you’re doing it yourself, get some kind of drying racks set up in a cool, dry place and keep a fan on them for a few weeks. Store in a breathable bag (mesh, paper, burlap, etc.) in a dry place with stable temperatures. The hull dries attached to the nut and is winnowed off after cracking.


Here’s an article Bill wrote about bitternut hickory.