Shagbark Hickory Nut 640 x 400
Shagbark Hickory Nut Shagbark Hickory Nut © Wikimedia Commons

Stories in Pennsylvania

Giving Thanks to Nature

With careful planning, celebrating Thanksgiving in Central Pennsylvania can be a woods-to-table experience.

Fall, it’s a time of harvest and sharing the abundance nature has provided. It is also a time of thanks. Life is a blessing and my wife and I love sharing every moment with our two young girls, Anna and Evelyn, at our family forest on the Kittatinny Ridge in western Perry County.

The fall harvest in Central Pennsylvania depends on many factors throughout the year; ample rainfall, late spring frosts, heat waves, and forest pests and pathogens to name a few. 

This year proved to be a perfect combination of moderate temperatures and above average rainfall with few forest pests or pathogens stressing the trees. Never have I witnessed so much food in the forest, from oaks bending under the weight of acorns, to beech nuts covering the ground and hickory nuts so abundant you can’t walk on the trails without falling over.

Every weekend, Anna and Evelyn are constantly exploring and foraging all the berries, nuts and mushrooms growing in the woods this time of year. They pick teaberries, their favorite fruit, shagbark hickory nuts and mushrooms. They eat the teaberries as they are picked. The shagbark hickory nuts and maitake mushrooms are collected and stored until we prepare our Thanksgiving meal.

The Thanksgiving meal is truly a woods-to-table meal for our family. The meal we prepare this year will include a shagbark hickory nut pie, vegetables from our garden, mushrooms from the woods and our mushroom garden, and a main course of wild turkey and venison. (For those of you wondering how to make a shagbark hickory nut pie, its simple. Just spend several days shelling shagbark hickory nuts and substitute them for pecans. Shagbark hickory is in the pecan family and is the favorite flavor nut of many people.)

Living with nature and understanding its cycles and stewardship needs provides our family with gratitude. We feel thankful to be blessed with its bounty.

My wife and I hope that someday our girls will look back on the experiences we had in the woods and at Thanksgiving with love. We also hope the memories cultivate their own desire to conserve nature and all that it gives back to us.

Nature Conservancy Magazine

  • Josh Parrish's wife, Amanda and their children Anna, 4, and Evelyn, 2 years old, in their family forest, Pennsylvania.

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