Nut Trees Provide Survival Food
Humans have relied on nut trees as a food source for eons. They grow wild on almost every continent and need no special care. Their nutritious nuts store for long periods of time in their shells and attract many species of wildlife. What’s not to love?
You can vacuum seal and store some nuts for up to a year without any refrigeration, so they’re a pretty good prep food to keep in stock. Be sure to rotate so they don’t go rancid.
Stocking up is great, but how will you resupply your stash if the stores are empty and your supplies are running low? Learning to identify nut trees and forage for their high protein harvest in the fall is an important skill to learn and will get you started toward self reliance. To increase your chances of survival, why not plant a variety of nut trees to sustain you in tough times?
Nutritional Value of Nuts
Eating nuts as a survival food will supply your body with a great dose nutrition. Here’s the rundown of their nutritional benefits:
- Monounsaturated fatty acids like Omega 3s – the good stuff.
- Vitamins – vitamin E, folic acid, and B vitamins.
- Minerals – magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorous, and selenium.
- Carbohydrates – especially in chestnuts and acorns.
Our bodies are more adapted to eating nuts than they are to eating grains. Nuts have been part of our diet for much longer. Grains are a fairly new introduction to the human diet and our modern grains have evolved much faster than our ability to digest them properly. Eating a handful of nuts every day will lower blood sugar levels and many nuts will also provide you with a more complete form of protein and nutrition than corn or wheat. Harvesting acorns and using them as a food source will supply a very similar nutritional boost to eating corn, without the hassle of planting it every year.
*If you are allergic to nuts, please find another source of protein for your survival diet!
Storing Your Nuts For Winter
Most nuts will keep well through the winter and help supply the survivalist with necessary protein at a time of year when fish and game are hard to find. Walnuts, butternuts, hickory, almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans need to have their outer hulls removed soon after harvest. Walnuts and butternuts, especially, contain tannins in the hulls that can seep into the shell and cause a bitter flavor in the nutmeats. Wash them to remove the bitter compounds and then spread in shallow layers in a warm, dry, and dark place to cure for about 1 month before shelling. Store hard nuts such as walnuts, butternuts, pecans, hickory, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts, and coconuts in their shells for their best keeping qualities. With the shells still on, these nuts can be stored in a cool dry place for up to a year with no refrigeration. For best results, use over the winter and early spring. After 6 months the meats may start to dry up or mold.
Pine nuts, chestnuts, and acorns don’t store well long term and may be shelled and dried to preserve them. Acorns need to be shelled, broken into pieces, and soaked in several changes of water to remove the bitter tannic acid before eating. The White oak family produces the most palatable acorns. Dry nuts next to a low fire for several days until they are easily ground into four. Use this flour to make cakes, bread, or pasta. You can also use nuts and nut flour in stews when meat is unavailable.
*Do not use nuts that smell rancid or have mold on them.
Nuts Provide Forage for Livestock and Wild Game
We all know that squirrels gather nuts and store them away for the winter. If you are observant you just might find out where they are stashing their winter stores, allowing you to steal the nuts for yourself. While you’re at it, why not keep a sling shot or bow at the ready to bag yourself some free squirrel meat? There are many species of game animal that eat acorns and nuts to forage on in the fall. Wild hogs, turkeys, pheasant, pigeons, jays, and bear will seek these free meals to fatten up for the winter. Be on the lookout for an opportunity to gather acorns and a nice supply of meat when the harvest begins. Be careful around bear. If you are not properly armed, I advise you leave the acorns to them.
If you are raising livestock such as pigs, chickens, and turkeys on your survival property, you would do well to fatten them on the acorn and chestnut harvests in fall. They will pack on extra meat and fat, making a higher quality carcass for the table. If you can pen them in an oak or nut grove, they will search out and consume the harvest without any extra work on your part. Be careful not to leave pigs penned for too long in a nut grove, or they will root up a lot of ground and cause damage to the tree roots. As you shell and eat nuts during the winter, you can feed any that are infested with weevils to the pigs, turkeys, and chickens. Better yet, let your chickens eat the pests before they do the damage during the growing season.
Plant Your Nuts
No matter where you live, be sure to plant a wide variety of nuts and fruits for survival food sources. Research the best species for your climate. Look through a good tree identification guide and become familiar with the trees on your property. Inventory the existing trees. Find out what they are useful for and determine how many will provide food and forage if you become dependent on them. This will give you an idea of what you are lacking and need to plant for the future. Make notes about the species that are thriving. Look around at your growing conditions. Do you have marshlands, heavily wooded areas, or dry scrub lands? These notes will help you choose the best trees for your growing conditions. Most nut trees will take a few years to become established and produce, so start now.
Choose Your Nuts Wisely
I live in the northern Midwest and can’t grow some of the less hardy species. For those in the South plant Emory Oak for their palatable acorns, along with pecans and almonds. The arid conditions of the Southwest are best for Pinon, Jeffrey, Ponderosa, and Umbrella pines with their nutritious pine nuts. In areas with good rainfall and mild winters, you may be able to grow pistachios, pecans, and almonds. Tropical zones will support coconuts, cashews, and Brazil nuts. Do your research and know your growing zone before you purchase seedlings.
Best Nut Trees for Northern Deciduous Forests:
- Black walnut
- Shagbark hickory
- American hazelnut (good for smaller spaces)
- White oak (best acorns for eating)
- Red oak
- Burr oak (withstands fire)
Taking Care of Your Nuts
Plant nut tree seedlings in a sunny location with well drained soil. They can be planted in rough or hilly terrain that is unsuitable for field crops. In fact, their roots will prevent erosion and conserve your top soil. Keep them watered during dry spells for the first two years. After their roots are established they will need very little care.
Nut trees have deep root systems that supply all of the minerals they need from the subsoil. Fallen leaves and twigs decompose and feed their nutrients back to the tree. Do not allow livestock to graze around young nut trees, or they may be trampled or eaten. Black walnuts and butternuts both belong to the Juglans family and produce a toxin that kills many plants in their vicinity. Do not plant them near gardens, orchards, or other plants that you value.
New trees will sprout readily from fallen nuts. Leave plenty of room for your nut grove to expand. If you are short on space you may be able to plant American hazelnut trees. These multi-stemmed trees will grow approximately 15 to 20 feet tall and wide. The male catkins of the hazelnut attract Ruffed Grouse in winter.
Nut trees will produce large harvests with no tilling, replanting, fertilizing, or pesticides. An acre of mature oak trees can produce 6 thousand to 10 thousand pounds of acorns annually. Try getting a harvest like this from corn without fertilizers or pesticides! Let your pigs, chickens and turkeys eat the acorns and pests, and add nitrogen from their droppings as they forage.
Start Now To Reap A Nutritious Harvest Later
What other crop will provide such a large harvest with so little work? Plant these trees once so that you can harvest a bounty of survival food every fall. Don’t wait to get started. Many nut trees take a decade or more to produce a harvest. Planting early maturing hazelnuts now will give you a head start. Choose a variety of nuts to provide the nutrition you need to survive the coming storm. If you’re unsure of where to begin, you might want to Hire a Permaculture Designer.
Have you ever tried growing and harvesting your own nuts?