We’ve been spreading our Earth Day activities over an Earth-Day Week. On Monday, bare root hazelnut bushes arrived from The Arbor Foundation and demanded immediate planting. My neighbor and I divided them up to plant them.

Hazelnut bushes grow 8′ – 10′ high; they create excellent screens, and best of all give wild food that feeds the wild woodland animals roaming our Wisconsin backyards.

But to make room to plant the hazelnut bushes, we had to rip out European buckthorn. It’s an invasive species in Wisconsin that was introduced centuries ago because when young, the trees are good screens and spread rapidly. But the spreading is exactly the problem. This invasive species is so prolific that it soon dominates a landscape. Wisconsin’s native plants don’t have a chance. Buckthorn does give food, if you can call it that. Early Wisconsin residents used the berries as a diuretic.

Weeding European buckthorn is easy when the tress are tiny. Kids can help. So my neighbor and I hired our own children to pull buckthorn.   When the younger children wearied, we set them upon Wisconsin’s other invasive species, garlic mustard. The pretty white flowers on top of a garlic mustard stalk look innocent, but within a few years, garlic mustard plants will be wherever the buckthorn isn’t. This invasive species combo can kill a small, Wisconsin forest in 10 years.

So we were taking action against them. Perhaps four hazelnut bushes are not many, but they’re a start. And The Arbor Foundation practically gives them away.

If you’re interested in planting Wisconsin wild foods and cooking with them, then a must-have cookbook is Wisconsin Wild Foods: 100 Recipes For Badger State Bounties, by John Motoviloff. Keep reading for John’s hickory nut pancake recipe.

Hickory nuts are native Wisconsin wild foods. John writes:

“Delicious hickory nuts are available during September and October in wooded areas like the northern Kettle Moraine in the east and the Driftless Area in the southwest. Remove the softer green outer shell, then get out the nut meats.

“A special hickory nut vice (available at rural hardware or Amish stores), hammer and vice, or simple nutcracker can be employed to crack the inner shell. At that point, the nut should split in two halves — and you can tease the meat out with a pick or your fingers.

“Hickory nuts can be used anywhere pecans, to which they’re closely related, would be– such as coffee cakes or cookies. They’re also excellent when cooked with fried squirrel or grouse.”

And I’ll add to John’s description, that the hickory nuts are one of those super nuts high in the essential kinds of fat that all brains require for fast thinking.

But Earth Day is in April, not September. I have no hickory nuts for our pancakes, but I do have pecans. So these I will substitute in John’s pancake recipe.:

  • 1 batch of pancakes, cooked according to your favorite recipe
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup hickory nuts, shelled and rid of any hard membranes

“Heat butter in heavy skillet and add hickory nuts. Cook until golden brown. Put nuts in a bowl and pass. A pancake slathered in butter, topped with browned hickory nuts, and then doused in real maple syrup is a real treat.

“Serve with strong New Orleans-style chicory coffee for breakfast or dessert.”