The hickory tree is best kown for its timber with around 18 species, 12 are native to North America one to Mexico, and 5 or 6 to China/Indochina. The small flowers generally appear in spring, (are pollinated by the wind), and are a yellow greenish in colour, the fruit are spherical to oval between 2 and 5 cm. long 1.1/2- 3 cm. diameter in a 4 sectioned nut which is both thick and bony in most cases an exception being Caraya illinoinsis.( more on this one later) and one or two others, which is thin.
On his travels in 1792 William Bartram wrote about a native shagbark hickory nut that he called Juglans Exalta, cultivated by Indians, west of Augusta, GA. The Indians pounded or ground the nuts and with water boiled it into a a white oily liquid which separated was called hickory milk and used in cooking, the hickory “cream” was described by the Algonquian Indian tribe in Virginia as “pawcohiccora”, this name was adapted by the English colonists to hickory, and the hickory nuts are now widely used in cooking.
Hickory is used in tool handles (as it is flexible but extremely tough) as well as golf clubs ( hence the phrase “oldhickory stick”), drum sticks, wheel spokes and bows, and I hate to say it but it was used as a cane in schools. Further use of the wood, because of the high calorific content, is used for wood burning stoves, also preferable to other woods for smoke burning and barbeques for adding flavour to meats.
I come to the variations of hickory (the edible types) and give them their full names so you are aware of their differences, but if selecting one or even more for your garden or yard be prepared as they can grow to 70 feet!, and can live for 200 hundred years or more, some of the nuts are edible and others are bitter although suitable as animal feed. the three I favour most, in fact some people regard them as the finest nut trees are :-
Carya ovata Shagbark Hickory. ( An extract is used in an edible syrup very much like maple syrup, but it does have a slightly bitter smokey taste.)
Carya laciniosa Shellbark Hickory.
Cayra illinoinensis Pecan. ( Probably the best known of the nuts in this group). See the page on Pecans on “Fruit trees nuts”.
So you now have a solution, if you no longer require the tree you can chop it up to use in many fascinating ways!