Edible Nuts of Toronto

There’s a joy that comes with harvesting in Toronto’s urban orchard– it’s like a treasure hunt and at the same time, also a renewed connection to the earth and to where our food comes from. Toronto holds host to several edible nut species that can be harvested at this time of year and later into the fall so why not take advantage of the city’s urban bounty and harvest some of the abundance of wild and edible nuts that are just waiting to be picked! If you’re willing to do the work of preparing them and cracking the open, the following nuts are delicious (as the squirrels and raccoons will attest!)

Edible nuts have been used by Indigenous people in Canada since time immemorial and are still being harvested to this day. Most can be enjoyed raw or added to baking. They can also be used as toppings for sweet treats or ground into meal for an interesting take on flour.

The only requirements for harvesting are knowledge, a sense of adventure and time! You must also be able to positively identify a nut or seed as edible before you eat it. Please pick responsibly and take only what you can eat  and or share with others.

To harvest, collect the nuts as soon as possible to avoid mould and remove the husks! If the nut is too hard, wait a few days and it will brown and soften up. For walnuts and most other hard nuts you can store them unshelled and to open them, simply crack the shell with a hammer or use pliers!

Black Walnuts

What to look for: Large, round, light green skinned (peel green husk and dry as soon as you harvest)
When to look: Late September to early October as they fall from trees
Where to find: Usually along rivers
Eating tips: Goes well in salad and dessert

Butternut / White Walnut

What to look for: A rare tree with pale grey bark and a green hairy husk
When to look: Mid to Late Autumn
Where to find: Across Southern Ontario, if you find one let us know!
Eating tips: An oily nut that can be eaten as is when mature or prepared in a variety of ways. The Iroquois crushed and boiled butternuts and served the mixture as baby food or drinks, or processed it into breads, puddings, and sauces.

Chestnut

What to look for: A spiny green husk
When to look: Mid to Late Autumn
Where to find: This tree was formerly common in hardwood forests of southern Ontario but was destroyed by a bark fungus so it is rare to find.
Eating tips: The nuts can be eaten raw or cooked, dried or pounded into flour for bread, soups and puddings. Make sure you don’t eat the inedible kind of horse chestnut!

Hazel

What to look for: A furry green husk on branch tips
When to look: Mid to Late Autumn when the husks turn brown
Where to find: Hardwood and mixed forests
Eating tips: Dry before cracking them open. You can eat them raw or toasted in fruit salads, greens or desserts

Hickory

What to look for: A light grey nut beneath a greeny/brown shell
When to look: Mid to Late Autumn when the husks turn brown
Where to find: Hardwood and mixed forests
Eating tips: Dehusk to remove hulls, wash and dry in sun for a few days before cracking , salad, nut bread or other desserts

Ginkgo

What to look for: Unique fan shaped leaves and plum shaped nut that is pale green before it matures into a yellow/orange
When to look: Mid to Late Autumn
Where to find: Mixed forests and possibly in Toronto this fall!
Eating tips: Great care must be taking as ginkgo seeds have certain toxic properties. Minimize skin contact and do not eat raw as they are mildly toxic. Boil, bake, roast or fry them and don’t eat too many! Soak in water and remove the outer coating with gloves on.

Do you have a nut tree? Have any other nuts you’ve found in Toronto that aren’t in this list? Please share your comments, questions, and advice!

Resources:
15 Wild Plants You Can Eat – Outdoor Canada
Wild Nuts in Canada – Canadian Encyclopedia
Edible Trees and Feeding the Hungry – Tree Canada
Butternuts – Songonline

Further Reading:

https://edibletoronto.ediblecommunities.com/eat/crazy-ontario-grown-nuts
https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/detail.jsp?Entt=RDM3424137&R=3424137

Further Reading

Squirrels and Raccoons – The Fruit Bandits of Toronto!

Edible Nuts of Toronto