Tag Archive: easy


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!

 

Columbine with bumblebee

Aquilegia

The plant that earns first post in May is the humble Columbine, or if you want to be elitist and speak a little Latin, Aquilegia.  Most of the varieties available to purchase in nurseries or as seed are hybrids, but there are species Aquilegias available in some nurseries.  Chances are, you have some growing wild in your region since they are widespread in meadows, forest edges, clearings and higher elevations in the Northern hemisphere.  The Pacific Northwest’s native columbine is Aquilegia formosa, a handsome red and yellow specimen that seems to favour seeping rock walls and vernally moist areas with sharp drainage.

Columbines come in every colour you could desire except true blue- but I think the deep royal purples and almost-blue lilac shades make up for it.  Heights range from short dwarves about 6 inches tall, to giants that reach 4 ft. in good soil with the blossoms tinkling high in the air like coloured bells.  Flowers come in singles, doubles, and even more full blooms. ( No class for triples plus, but columbines have them!)  Plants can be grown easily from seed, but there’s a catch: it takes two years to get a bloom from seed.  The first year you only have foliage.  Once you have them blooming, however, it’s easy to spread the shiny black seed around from the dried capsules and thus be assured of continuous annual flowering.  Columbines are perennial and bloom for several years, but they are short lived and generally last around 5 years, depending on conditions. Columbines hybridize easily, so if you have more than one colour in the garden, the ones that come from seed will be a surprise! They do self-seed, but are easy to uproot and the leaf is fairly distinctive when you are weeding.

As if you needed more reasons to have columbines in the garden, they are great weed suppressors when not in bloom.  The slightly glaucus, shapely foliage heavily shades out plants beneath.  They act like a living mulch in drier areas, shading and cooling the soil. Columbines can be very adaptable, growing in poor soils, shady areas and other tricky spots. Hybrids tend to be more adaptable than species columbines, and plants grown from seed will ‘take’ better in difficult areas.  Another advantage is it’s cold hardiness-most varieties are extremely hardy, some to zone 3.  Bees love columbines!  It’s an excellent flower if you enjoy bees or want to attract pollinators, bumblebees seem to particularly enjoy them.  The best colours to attract them are deep purples, blue and bright yellows.  Hummingbirds will often favor the red and yellow varieties, especially the tall ones. (Plant our native Aquilegia formosa for a super hummingbird treat!) Columbines make excellent cut flowers, too, so grow a few for the cutting garden at least. In a cool place with plenty of water (they suck it up fast!) they can last up to two weeks.

Columbines have been a notable flower for millennia, and have mention in many stories and myths in many cultural traditions. The name columbine comes from the Latin columba for dove, for the blossom was thought to resemble a flock of doves facing inward, and in later centuries the flower came to represent the holy dove of the Christian church. The Latin name Aquilegia comes from another bird, aquila, the eagle, from the resemblance of the spurs to a hooked beak. In the Victorian language of flowers, the columbine represented primarily ‘desertion’ or ‘folly’, with a purple columbine meaning ‘resolved to win’ and red meaning ‘anxious’.  Somehow, a far cry from the image of a gentle dove, isn’t it?  Such a complex and lovely flower cannot help but be the subject of tales of fairies, gods and spirits, I think.  Other fanciful common names include Granny’s Bonnet and  European Crowfoot.

Aquilegia contains toxic alkaloids, some species more than others, particularly in the seed and root, but the extreme bitterness of toxic portions generally prevents accidental poisonings.  The flowers are edible and can be used in salads (I pull off the spurs and discard the hard core with stamens)- I have done this myself and suffered no ill effects, though some websites will say never eat the plant just to be safe.  Of course, never eat any flower that has been sprayed.  The nicest bit is the little bulb at the end of the spurs that contains the nectar- I was introduced to this as a child and plucked more than my share of flower heads just to nibble off the little honeyed drops contained within.

Aquilegia, like all garden ornamentals, sometimes is ‘in’ and sometimes hard to find in sufficient variety.  Virtually any colour or shape can be ordered online by seed if you’re hankering for something special.  Also check in the spring bulbs section of your local nursery (Feb-May), they often have it packaged in bags of dry peat, bare-root. It will be less expensive to get a lot of flowering plants the first year than buying them when in flower, but more expensive than sowing a packet of seeds.  Of course, the cheapest option means looking around at other gardens and asking nicely if you could please have some seed when the gorgeous specimen you have your eye on finishes flowering.  Chances are, they’ll hand you a bagful of seed capsules in late summer.

Happy Planting!

LeilaBee