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

Stories in Pennsylvania

Giving Thanks to Nature

by Josh Parrish, Working Woodlands Program Director for The Nature Conservancy

Fall, it’s a time of harvest, thanks and sharing the abundance nature has provided. 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 is dependent on many factors throughout the year; ample rainfall, no late spring frosts, heat waves, and forest pests and pathogens to name a few. This year proved to be the year of average rain. It helped provide good amounts of forage from mushrooms, teaberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries.  The red oak trees had a very large acorn year and our hickory trees, which we have many, also provided an excellent crop.

Two young girls in hats sit on the forest floor.
Girls in the Forest Josh Parrish has taken daughters, Anna and Evelyn, to the family's forest in Pennsylvania's Kittatinny Ridge since the were very little. © The Nature Conservancy/Josh Parrish

Every weekend, Anna and Evelyn are constantly exploring and foraging all the berries and mushrooms growing this time of year. They are constantly picking teaberries, their favorite fruit. They eat the teaberries as they are picked.

Over the year, they also picked umbrella polypore, morels, chanterelles, black trumpets, oysters and maitake mushrooms. They enjoy them when picked and cooked and we dry the excess mushrooms for enjoyment later in the year. 

A morel mushroom hidden in green vegetation.
Morel Morels can be found in the forests located along Pennsylvania's Kittatinny Ridge. © Creative Commons/George P. Macklin

Thanksgiving is truly a woods-to-table occasion for our family. The meal we will prepare this year will include vegetables from our garden, frozen berries from the woods, and mushrooms from the woods and our mushroom garden. 

One of the favorites fall nature items this year has been hickory net tea.  For those of you wondering how to make hickory nut tea, it’s easy. Find a mature hickory tree, pick up hickory nuts and crack the good nuts with a hammer. Take the nuts with the meat and shell and put them in a pot of water. Once the water boils, turn it off and the shells sink the bottom with the tea and hickory meat at the top for drinking and winter enjoyment.

Two girls sit on the floor of a forest.
Girls in a Forest Anna and Evelyn Parrish pick the meat out of hickory nuts found in their family's forest. © The Nature Conservancy/Josh Parrish

Living with nature and understanding the cycles and stewardship needed gives our family great thanks to be blessed with its bounty. My wife and I hope that someday our girls will look back on their experiences we had in the woods and at Thanksgiving with love, hope and a desire to conserve natures great gifts.

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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