Hickory - Carya ovata

Hickory - Carya ovata

The Earth Tree

A dreamer once dreamt of the earth as a tree - it was not the only tree. The earth tree started out small like a seed. Over time it started to spiral up, adding complex, interwoven layers to itself. There were mineral layers, layers of microorganisms, plant layers, animal layers, and human layers. Many more unexplainable things were above and below and many more things in-between. The layers created many branches, and each branch contained a multitude of leaves. These leaves upon further inspection appeared to the dreamer as leaves covered with a multitude of eyes.

The tree seemed as if it existed to experience light, as its many branches moved and grew to wherever it could better touch this light. And every branch of this light reaching tree appeared connected. There were no ‘I’ branches, just a collective of ‘We’ branches. As the history of this tree passed before the dreamer’s eye, some smaller branches grew into areas that had no light. These branches would eventually die off and the tree’s energy would be diverted to branches that were bathing in the light. Broken branches appeared to be teaching the tree what didn’t work and what wasn’t beautiful.

During the dream, the dreamer noticed that on this particular earth tree, there happened to be a large branch that was broken. This branch was still connected to the tree but appeared be weighing heavily on the tree. The dreamer asked the dream, “What does this branch represent?” To which the dream responded, “This is the branch of a disconnected civilization. Part of the We has forgotten its purpose. It has grown into a dark place and is now inviting many diseases. The dreamer asked, "Why don't you just cut the branch off?" To which the dream responded, "It does not work like that. It must happen in its own time, and if it falls off in time, it will nourish the tree from below. If it does not fall off in time, it can infect the whole tree.”

The dreamer then examined this branch more closely and found withering leaves that had completely lost contact with the light. They were sick and their eyes were pale, having been by screens, noise, money, work, medication, agriculture, control, and isolation. Each eye represented a human, and these particular humans received their nourishment from only this broken branch. Upon examining the food of this branch, the dreamer heard its faint warning, “Food from a broken branch will only make you forget.”

Sickness was everywhere on this branch. There were mountains that had been razed, forest that were stripped to fields, animals in cages, insects that were seen as enemies, and a glowing sun that was now seen as harmful to human skin. The dreamer asked the dream, "Why would we do this?" To which the dream responded, “To light a candle is to cast a shadow. This is the price we must pay in searching for more light. Sometimes trees don’t make it, sometimes the process fails… and sometimes We remember. Help Us remember.”

Upon awakening the dreamer went to the wilderness alone, and started to remember.

"To learn to see, to learn to hear, you must do this - go into the wilderness alone. For it is not I who can teach you the ways of the gods. Such things are learned only in solitude."


One plant that needs to be remembered is the wild and untamed Hickory tree. In the early fall the ground will start to fill with tennis ball like husks of brown and green. These will form cracks and fissures along the edge that when opened up will reveal a hard kernel. Easily opened with a good quality nut cracker, these contain the nutmeat, a delicious and nutritious pecan like nut that in my opinion out surpasses anything found in a supermarket.

There are lots of different types of hickory; there is Shellbark, Shagbark, Bitternut, Pignut, Mockernut… Some nuts are amazing, while others are quite bitter. The Shellbark and Shagbark are said to be the best tasting. We often sample a nut before we start collecting the husks and kernels, making sure it is not bitter. Each tree varies, and some nuts are just ok, while others are incredible.


We like to harvest the nuts right away. If left to sit, we often find that little nut weevils will have worked their way through a lot of the kernels.

Hickory trees don’t always produce tons of fruit evey year, as they usually take a year or two off, producing only small crops in the down years. But in a forest with plenty of trees, we have never found a shortage of nuts to gather.

Hickory nuts can be ground to make a flour, but we prefer to eat them just as they are.