Maple Crest resident Oliver Lugibihl, MD, knows where the trees are and enjoys foraging for hickory nuts in late summer and early fall. This year, he has proof that his interest in one of Ohio’s indigenous nuts isn’t just a passing fancy.
“I’m now a card-carrying member of the Ohio Nut Growers Association,” he said proudly.
A retired family physician, Lugibihl “cultivated” an interest in hickory nuts and black walnuts several years ago. His cookies are a hit at bake sales run by the Service Group of Mennonite Home Communities of Ohio (MHCO). During Christmas and New Year, he provides pies for fundraisers for MHCO and other community organizations. Social gatherings at Maple Crest have enjoyed hickory nut cake, best when topped with ice cream.
“Black walnuts have a stronger taste,” he added. To the nut novice, he advises starting out with the hickory nut pie and working your way up to black walnut.
Lugibihl’s garage at his Maple Crest villa contains nut processing equipment and a refrigerator full of (you’ve got it) hickory nuts. Possibly the envy of local squirrels, he estimates he has more than 60, 1.5- pound bags of nuts stored. This is no small accomplishment as hickories are notoriously difficult to crack allowing access to the actual edible nut.
Once the green casing is removed, hickory nuts are smooth, ivory colored and come to a point at one end. The meat of the nuts from the shag bark hickory nut tree is buttery and sweet, making the hard work of shelling worth it. Hickory nuts are one of the few Ohio nuts that Native Americans ate raw. They can be used in place of pecans; in fact, pecans are actually a southern species of hickory nut. If kept in a cool place, nuts in the shell will last several years. Shelled nuts should be refrigerated.
Lugibihl likes hickories because they grow wild and just about all parts are useful. His nephews use the shells he saves for their meat smokers. Shells can also be used in fire pits. The processed nuts give you “something to show for what you’ve done.”
According to its website, the purpose of the Ohio Nut Growers Association is for the mutual benefit of farmers, nut growers, agriculturalists, horticulturalists and others. To promote the demand for and the sale of nuts and nut products and to provide educational, scientific, tree grafting, pollination, marketing and other information to members. As an enthusiastic advocate of the hickory nut, Lugibihl brought three bags of nuts, several bags of hickory nut and black walnut cookies and four pies to the group’s spring meeting in Mansfield, Ohio.
A long-time volunteer for Mennonite Home Communities of Ohio, Lugibihl has turned something that many take for granted into a tasty fundraiser and project to preserve Ohio’s native species. Besides, it keeps him active. “Looking for nuts keeps me from sitting around and watching TV,” he laughed.
Dr. Ollie’s Scandinavian Nut Cookies
- 1 cup butter
- 3 eggs beaten
- 4 cups flour
- 1 to 1-1/2 cups chopped nuts
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 Tbs. vanilla
- 1/2 tsp. salt
Cream butter. Add sugar slowly, creaming all the time. Add beaten eggs, then nuts and vanilla. Sift dry ingredients together and add to mixture. Shape in rolls. Chill overnight. Slice about 1/4″ thick. Bake at 350 degrees for 14-16 minutes.