Tag Archive: coppice


Hazelnuts- Wikipedia image

Quick Hazel History  

Pollen counts reveal that Corylus avellana was the first of the temperate deciduous forest trees to immigrate, establish itself and then become abundant in the post glacial period. Evidence of the cultivation of hazelnuts exists in excavations sites in China that date back over 5,000 years ago. An ancient manuscript also listed hazelnuts as one of China’s five sacred foods. Archaeologists have found large quantities of hazelnut shells in Mesolithic and Neolithic sites in what is now Sweden, Denmark, and Germany. The Mesolithic era, or Middle Stone Age, dates back around 10,000 years ago until the Neolithic period, which started 7,000 years ago. Hazelnuts were a large part of the prehistoric hunter and gatherer’s diet, and the nuts probably provided them with enough nutrition to sustain them between hunting seasons.

Throughout history, it was believed that hazel trees and their nuts possessed mystical powers and healing properties. Divining rods were made out of Y-shaped hazel tree branches to locate underground springs, buried treasure, and minerals and ores. Ancient Romans would light hazel torches during wedding nights as a sign of fertility and to ensure a long and happy marriage.

Hazel trees were introduced to the United States by European immigrants. The first hazelnut tree in the Pacific Northwest was planted in 1858 by Sam Strickland, a retired English sailor in Scottsburg, Oregon. Today, hazelnuts grown in the Willamette Valley make up 99 percent of hazelnuts produced in the United States. The remaining 1 percent is produced in Washington. In 1989, the hazelnut (commonly called the filbert by Oregonians) became the official state nut of Oregon.

Hazelnut-producing regions of the world are all close to large bodies of water, which moderate the climate. About 70% of the world’s hazelnut production comes from the Black Sea region of northern Turkey. Italy produces about 20% of world production. Spain, France, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and the United States produce most of the rest. World production and supply of hazelnuts—as well as the supply of other nuts—influence hazelnut prices in the United States.

The dominant feature controlling the distribution of commercial hazelnut production in the United States is the moderate climate of the Pacific Northwest coastal valleys, which is influenced by the Pacific Ocean. Virtually all of the hazelnuts produced commercially in the United States are
grown in the Pacific Northwest. Approximately 99% are grown in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and Washington produces the remaining 1%. Pacific Northwest production represents 3%–5% of world hazelnut production.

The Squirrel Hack

Your adorable nemesis

If you live in an climate that is favorable to hazelnut trees, I bet you’ve run across more than a few sprouting in the lawn, or the bushes, or in the garden where they aren’t supposed to be, set down in ‘secret’ spots by enterprising squirrels.  I spent far more time pulling new saplings out than planting them, truth be told. There’s an interesting way to ‘hack’ this habit of squirrels to steal and hide your nuts:  Give them places to hide them. A gallon pot hidden near a tree, a bucket of sawdust, cinder blocks with accessible holes, all of these represent a great storage space to a squirrel. Let them do your collecting for you, and steal them right back!

Side note on keeping squirrels at bay, and this is just personal observation.  I don’t know why, but ducks seem to despise squirrels. My ducks used to chase and harass any visiting squirrel to my two trees in the backyard, and when I had hanging out them there, I sure had a lot more nuts to collect!  If you were keeping a small orchard of hazelnuts, running ducks under the trees to pasture them might just reduce the amount of robbery.

You could also eat the squirrels.  Just sayin’.  Apparently they taste like nutty rabbit.

How to Care for your Hazels

Mostly, caring for your hazels is about pruning, since they grow pretty quickly, and apart from a few diseases like Eastern Filbert Blight, they are very easy to care for. Pruning frequently makes your tree more productive, as it puts more energy into making nuts than new branches, which it will happily do if left alone. It also extends the life of the tree, in the long run.

Basics: Ideally, you’re looking for a not too dense tree with good air circulation with an open crown to let the light in evenly.  Select the best 3-5 trunks with sturdy branching, and prune the rest out.  Any branches that cross and rub against each other should be taken out. Branches that grow outward at too sharp an angle or downward should also be pruned out. Branches that grow taller than 10-15 ft. can be lopped, you want a tree that’s sturdy, and not impossible to reach the top of. Be a little cautious with chopping it short though, as the tree will bush out below cuts and if you do it too much, block out light to the lower branches. Just do the branches that go rocketing straight up.

More thorough instructions on training a young tree here

Luckily, the suckers you will need to remove most often are whippy and flexible, and easily used for things like wattle fencing or basketry, and the wood, once seasoned, makes pretty good firewood. A little on the faster burning side, but if you have lots of free wood from pruning, then that’s no big deal.

If you’re not worried about producing a big nut crop, hazels can be coppiced, or cut back down to the ground so that they produce many thin, straight branches in the following year.  These are great for fencing, making chairs, hoops and other garden supports, and anything else you want a flexible wood for. Coppiced hazels can be harvested in a year if you want thin bendy stakes, or in a few if you want nice thick poles.

Fertilizing: Honestly, hazelnuts are very easygoing in their requirements and you don’t need to fuss too much over the fertilizer. If you’re growing a proper orchard, by all means, then get a leaf tissue analysis or soil test done at a lab and respond accordingly, but for the average homeowner,  some nice compost or a balanced fertilizer around the drip line in spring should keep your tree happy. Hazels don’t appreciate drought, so in the Pacific Northwest, a few good deep waterings during the drought season are a requirement. All the usual rules apply:  Keep your soil happy and full of life with organic amendments, mulch, make sure drainage is good, water deeply if there’s a period of drought.

Production: Hazelnut trees might produce a few nuts when they are 2 or 3 years old, but they are not considered commercially productive until 4 years of age. Mature orchards produce from less than 2,000 pounds of dry nuts per acre (2.24 metric tons per hectare) to more than 4,000 pounds per acre (4.48 metric tons per hectare). An orchard can remain productive for about 40–50 years if managed well and kept free of disease. Assuming you aren’t growing an orchard, one mature tree can produce up to 25 lbs. of nuts.

So, you actually want an Orchard? Check here.

Getting Nuts: Mow under the trees before nuts start to fall, it will make it easier to rake up the nuts.  It takes about six weeks for them to all fall off, but you can hurry that up a bit by shaking the tree. If you feel really enterprising, you can put an old bedsheet under it first, to make everything cleaner. Not all the nuts will be good, but that’s easy to tell, simply float them in water. If they float, toss, if they sink, good. Chuck any that have holes in them, unless you enjoy eating bugs.

Most sources go straight to the drying, but don’t miss out on the fresh ones- they are delicious, they just don’t keep as long. Try a few just as they are, they’re more tender and moist but just as tasty. Harvested early, just before they start to fall, the British call them cobnuts.  Yes, they are specific varieties, but they are still hazelnuts, and if you collect green nuts in August from your own tree, they will taste the same. At this point the frilly skin is still green, and nuts are still on the tree.  They are fresh and milky and delicious, so give them a try!

Once hazelnut picking has been accomplished, it’s time to dry the nuts out. Start drying them within 24 hours after picking. Lay them out in a single layer on a screen to allow for good aeration. Place them in a warm, dry place and stir them around every day. Hazelnuts dried in this manner should be completely dried in 2-4 weeks. To speed up the process, you can use a food dryer. Set the temperature of the dryer to 90-105 degrees F. (32-40 C.). A food dryer will shorten the drying time to 2-4 days. You may also dry the nuts over a furnace or radiator, whatever will keep the temp around 90-105 F. and no more than that. Also, if you shell the nuts prior to drying them, the dry time will decrease significantly. Once the hazelnuts are dry, the meat will be cream colored and firm. As long as the nuts are not shelled, hazelnuts can be stored at room temp for several months. Shelled nuts should be used within a few weeks or stored in the refrigerator or frozen for up to a year.

Eastern Filbert Blight: A total bastard.

Rather than cut and paste a huge amount of information here, how about you just check out Pacific Northwest Pest Management Handbooks.

EFB is the main disease you need to worry about, but it’s easily identified, and if you are going to the trouble of purchasing new stock, then be sure to ascertain if it’s an EFB resistant strain of hazel.  If you want to grow from seed, or layering an unknown tree, you are taking your chances! You will still get nuts from an infected tree, but not nearly as much, and the tree will have a seriously shortened lifespan.

EFB resistant Hazelnuts

Hazel Varieties: A few nuggets of wisdom on hazel varieties from Michael Dolan of Burnt Ridge Nursery: Hazelnuts are one of the most widely-adapted nut trees on the continent. Some are even hardy to zone 3.
Bush hazels (Corylus americana) typically only grow to 10′ and can easily be kept at 6′. The nuts fall free of the husks; this variety native to Eastern US. Hardy to zone 3. Small nuts.
Beaked hazels (Corylus cornuta) are the West Coast native with smaller bushes than the commercial varieties, and give smaller nuts that are challenging to get out of their husks (which have a pointed, or “beaked” collar at the non-stem end).
European hazels (Corylus avellana) are the most commonly cultivated commercial varieties, and Oregon State Univ has come out with blight-resistant varieties in the last 10 years or so – Jefferson is most commonly substituted for the old favorite variety Barcelona – and pollinators for Jefferson include Yamhill, Theta, Eta, Felix, Dorris, McDonald, York, Wepster. Sacajawea, Halle’s Giant and Tonda Di Giffoni are older varieties that are somewhat less blight resistant, but Tonda Di Giffoni is the favored Italian variety due to its ability to blanch perfectly and remove the inner husk.
Turkish Tree Hazels (Corylus colurna) are a tree form that yields smallish nuts in a highly decorative husk grouping – each cluster has multiple husks that have a hard, scrolled pattern to the pointed ends, giving the entire cluster a crazy, fist-sized brown snowflake-like appearance.

Extra Bonus Level: Truffles! You can now get hazelnut trees which have been inoculated with truffle mycelium. What better deal than to be able to get two crops in one space, the aim of permaculture and agroforestry? This new tech is still not very widespread, but there are producers out there selling Oaks and Hazels which should produce truffles in about the same time it takes to get a decent crop of nuts. Truffle harvest generally starts just after hazelnut harvest is over. If you’re trying to get the maximum out of your plantings, it will be worth the extra cost output to begin with. Now all you need is a properly trained dog!

Getting Some: That all depends on where you are. Oregon has most of the dedicated hazelnut growers, if you’re in the states, I’d look there first for bare root stock. In Canada, there’s quite a few nut growers but some don’t ship to certain provinces. NatureTech looks to be the best source of EFB resistant trees on the west coast. Your local nursery might carry hazelnuts, or they might not.  Nut trees are not as popular as fruit trees, so be aware you may have to go the extra mile to get what you want. If you’re lucky enough to know someone with EFB resistant trees, layering to get new trees couldn’t be easier, or remove a sucker from the base that has some roots attached.

Happy growing!

 

cottonwoods fallen budsCottonwoods seem to get a whole lot of bad press and not enough praise.  As soon as the fluff starts to fly in late spring/ early summer people seem to want to gripe about it. Oh sure, some do enjoy the warm season snow, delicate as goosedown, swirling, lofting and icing the sidewalks. It’s a little magical when the flurries are a-fly. I promise  it is not making you sneeze, it’s just what you see in front of you while other tree and grass pollens play merry hell with your sinuses. Cottonwood pollen is released long before the flurf flies- that’s actually the mature seed with a silken sail attached.

There’s also the abundant branch shedding, of course.  It’s not a tree for the obsessively tidy. It’s branching is abundant, even shaggy, and the wood snaps easily in high winds, leading to littered landscapes.  (But if you have a chipper, or are a wizard with the shears, lots of lovely ramial wood chips for soil improvement.)  It rots quickly and also makes great mushroom logs if you have larger diameter fallen branches to dispose of.

I notice when I look up cottonwood trees, everyone writes as if the local tree is ‘THE’ cottonwood.  In fact, it’s a large number of populus that people call “Cottonwood”. In the West coast of North America, my ‘hood, it’s Populus trichocarpa. Most widely distributed is Populus tremuloides (mainly Canada, but found as far south as central Mexico.) Populus deltoides mainly from the central and East USA, but a bit into the Southern Canadian prairies. Populus grandidentata in the East in a swoosh from the Great Lakes to the coast. There’s a whack of them. If you care to make a precise ID of your particular poplar (yes, I also mean cottonwood)- check the ranges. Google ‘Populus’ with your state or province and you should be able to figure out which one you’re looking at. It also hybridizes easily where ranges intersect- just to throw a curveball into your I.D.  It’s not limited to the Americas either- Europe and Asia have plenty of poplars, too.

All varieties can be used in much the same way, though, and while one variety might be medicinally superior, I don’t know which. I’d need a lab and USDA level access to fresh samples. The spring bud resin of any can be used to make a soothing anti-infammatory salve.  Also called Balm of Gilead, use of cottonwood bud salve is very old and very widespread- you can find it in Culpeper’s Compleat Herbal, Russian formulas using bear grease, the Salish peoples of the Pacific Northwest-essentially, everybody who has had access figured out this tree’s resin was a storehouse of medicinal power. Collecting windblown buds in early spring seems the epitome of ethical wildcrafting!cottonwood buds

Poplars grow fast. I guess you might need to, when your substrate is quite likely to shift without the stabilizing influence of your roots. They prefer moist soils, rivers and lakes in most varieties, but definitely abundant surface moisture when the seeds sprout, since they are viable only for a short time.  Water probably distributes as much seed and live material as the air filled with ‘snow’. My nearby Fraser River has large islands in the middle of it essentially made of cottonwoods alone, catching the suspended silt and sand. They shift position stealthily on dark nights…. well, maybe not that fast, but they do creep around. Cottonwood roots easily from dropped branches in spring, and sprouts vigorously from deer and beaver-girdled young trees, it’s a very vigorously alive tree.  Propagation is ridiculously simple.  A tilted log may become a mother of thousands.

The classic river or lakeside profile of the local cottonwood is crowded, shaggy, swoopy- classic cottonwood profilethe branches seem to sag under their own weight, and then optimistically rise up at the tips, almost making an ‘s’ with longer branches. When older, trunks grey and fissure, growing corky. When young they grow in gregarious groups, but are very shade intolerant trees, so tend to grow in groups of similar age.  Young seedlings soon expire in the heavy shade of abundant parent trees.

Cottonwoods can live a few hundred years- as much as 400, but usually don’t.  Typically cottonwoods succumb to rot, or undermining by water, or some other accident at 70-100. Living on riverbanks can be precarious.  They often break records for girth within their span, however.  The largest trees in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan are cottonwoods.

Early settlers would keep an eye out for cottonwood when travelling, as it’s presence indicated water.  They made frequent and widespread use of the fast growing tree for windbreaks, fenceposts, firewood and basketry. Wherever cottonwood is found, the people living among them have a history of use.  The Salish called it ‘The Tree of Life’, the Mojave people used it for practically everything one might use a tree for, the Hopi carved the roots into Kachina dolls. It’s a symbol of benevolent spirits and abundant life wherever it grows. The cambium is edible, and even tasty when the down is flying.cottonwoods branchy br

Other Uses

The wood of the tree itself isn’t as soft as the breakable branches might imply, and makes a very serviceable lumber. It’s fairly soft for making furniture with but oiling it helps prevent scratching and denting, and using it for things like trim or moldings is just fine. Since it grows so fast, that makes it quite a good choice for agroforestry projects. The trees can be coppiced for animal fodder. The wood holds inks unusually well, and makes excellent boxes and baskets, cut thin. Approved by the FDA for food containers and very workable, cottonwood also makes good bowls and cups. It’s light and ideal for models and children’s toys. As firewood it makes 16.8 million BTU’s per cord- not great, actually-but abundant! Cottonwood that has fallen as a result of rot smells a little funky though, so you might want to save that for outdoor fires.

Often thought of as a ‘waste’ tree, cottonwoods are in fact a storehouse of medicine, fast wood, wildlife support and great permaculture potential. See if you can find some at a river near you!

Fun Fact: Pando is a clonal colony of Populus tremuloides in Utah so big that it’s the heaviest (and at an estimated 80,000 years, one of the oldest) known organism.