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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - September 17, 2011

From: Waynesboro, VA
Region: Select Region
Topic: Edible Plants, Poisonous Plants, Trees
Title: Could hickory leaves be used as seasoning from Waynesboro VA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a hickory tree. If I pull a leaf off and rip it then smell, there is a strong wonderful scent of hickory much like when I rip a mint leaf there is a strong smell of mint. So my question is, can I use the leaves from the hickory tree as a seasoning agent in a similar way as I would use mint leaves? I've searched everywhere and couldn't find anything about the use of the hickory leaves. I can't imagine, with as strong as they smell, that they wouldn't work as a seasoning but I just don't know about the safety of using them, especially since I couldn't find anything online about people using the leaves, it makes me wonder if it is safe. Thanks!

ANSWER:

There are 7 hickories native to Virginia. We chose Carya ovata (Shagbark hickory) as our example. Our Native Plant Database has no indication that members of the genus Carya are poisonous. Here are a few databases of poisonous plants you could look at; it is always better to search on the scientific name (Carya ovata). Ordinarily, you could assume that if it did not appear in a few databases, it will probably not appear in any, but if you are going to feed this to your family, perhaps it would do well to be more cautious. It occurs to us that perhaps the reason you see no recipes for cooking with hickory leaves is that they are not very good. If you feel comfortable that they are not poisonous you might cook one and eat it yourself; better get a bad taste in your mouth than serve it to guests. I always think of vanilla-smells like heaven and tastes terrible.

From a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer:

"Whenever Mr. Smarty Plants gets questions about toxic plants, he checks out these databases to look for answers.

The Merck Veterinary Manual

ASPCA   

University of Arkansas 
 
University of Illinois  (common names only)    

Web site about Dobermans 

Toxic Plants of Texas

Poisonous Plants of North Carolina 

Cornell University Plants Poisonous to Livestock

University of Pennsylvania Poisonous Plants

Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System

California Poison Action Line

 

 

 

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