The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Our first significant hazelnut harvest

Nibbled hazelnut

Last year, our hazelnuts weren't ready to pick until early September. But when I was weeding around the bush on Friday, I noticed a few clusters had fallen to the ground, and several of those nuts were gnawed open on one end. That's a classic dining pattern for flying squirrels, so I figured I'd better bring in any nuts that were ready ASAP!

Harvesting hazelnuts

Our hazelnut bush is now six years old, and this is our first significant harvest. After a little handpicking, I realized that the easiest method was to clear away the few weeds that had grown up through the cardboard beneath the bush, then to shake each limb vigorously. About half of the nuts dropped and were easy to pluck off the ground. I'll go back next week to try to beat the squirrels to the remaining clusters.

Hazelnut katydid

(Look who joined me in my harvest morning --- a beautiful katydid!)

Dehulling hazelnuts

Back at the trailer, I decided to dehull the nuts right away. Really, I would have been better off waiting for the hulls to dry since some required prying action to get the leafy lobes apart. But it's been so wet that I was afraid the nuts would mold in their shells, so I went ahead and dehulled, ending up with about a cup of hazels in the shell for this first batch. Not a whole lot, but pretty exciting since we only got five hazelnuts total last year!

Next year's hazelnut flowers

Meanwhile, back in the garden, our bush has already created proto-flowers to produce next year's nuts, as you can see if you look closely at the photo above. Except for the multi-year wait for the first harvest and the possible squirrel problem, hybrid hazels seem to be an excellent low-work food plant. I'm glad we set out three extra bushes last fall!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Is there any specific variety that you are using? I thought hazelnuts were trees, or are you deliberately training them to be bushes?
Comment by NaYan Sat Aug 22 16:43:47 2015

Nayan --- This particular bush is an unnamed hybrid from the Arbor Day Foundation. Since planting that one, breeding programs expanded to produce named varieties, so our later bushes are named (but I can't report on them yet since they're too young!).

As for bush vs. tree --- hybrid hazels naturally grow as bushes. You can train them to tree form, but I decided to keep it free form.

Comment by anna Sat Aug 22 20:42:10 2015
I can feel your excitement. I live in zone 5 and may have a dozen or more pecans this year. But it intrigues me that you have hazel nuts in six years. The catalogs that I receive say that the bushes won't bear for up to 10 - 12 years. I know that it's a stretch to get a productive pecan bearing tree in my zone but hazel nuts use to grow on farms around here. Can you recommend a catalog where I can buy shorter time bearing bushes. Love your site and thanks for any info you can share.
Comment by Tressa Sat Aug 22 21:43:50 2015

Tressa --- I'm not sure there are any fast-to-production varieties, or at least I haven't seen any advertised. I think catalogs just vary in the amount of time they list, some nursery owners being more cautious than others. I saw one catalog that said hazels bear in two years, which made me disappointed that mine took five!

We got our most recent bushes from One Green World and they're growing well. But I don't think they're faster than any other hazels!

Comment by anna Sun Aug 23 20:03:59 2015

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