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Harvesting Hazelnuts
How early can hazelnuts be harvested?
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GH
Battle Ground, WA
129 Posts
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January 28, 2023 - 9:25 pm

There are three hazelnuts in my orchard, and now I'm facing the question of how to harvest the nuts before birds eat them all. The instruction that's always given is to wait until they fall from the tree, then harvest them. As anyone with a hazelnut tree can confirm, this is way too late. The only nuts that make it to the ground unscathed are the blanks (empty shells), with the birds eating the rest.

I was able to harvest almost 2 pounds of hazelnuts from my Jefferson last fall. After losing all of the nuts on my Yamhill, I decided to pick the remaining Jefferson hazelnuts directly off of the tree before they dropped. Both trees are growing in shrub form and were planted in 2018. I planted a Theta in 2021, growing as a tree, and it has produced only a few nuts so far.

Getting two pounds of hazelnuts is better than nothing, but it obviously isn't ideal. Is there some way to tell when the nuts are ripe enough to pick? Waiting until they start to drop is even too late, as by that time the birds will have eaten most of them; so it seems that they need to be picked much earlier.

The two pounds that I was able to pick were delicious, but it was just enough to make me want much more next year. The tree/shrubs are too large to easily net, so that doesn't seem like a feasible option. How does every else handle this?

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jafar
798 Posts
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January 28, 2023 - 10:05 pm

Do you see the birds eating them? I've assumed it is squirrels eating all of mine.

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GH
Battle Ground, WA
129 Posts
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January 28, 2023 - 10:49 pm

In my case it's definitely birds. They even went after some of the apples in fruit sox last fall. That was the most damage that my orchard has experienced, usually the fruit sox provide quite a bit of protection. It seemed to be a hard year for birds with much of their food sources unavailable, and that's probably why they focused more on the orchard. No matter the food availability, though, filberts seem to always be on the menu.

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Rooney
Vancouver SW Washington
803 Posts
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January 28, 2023 - 10:59 pm

Crows around here will eat those. I saw crows drop nuts from oaks on the road then after a passing car they come and eat.

The only lesson I have ever had with picking hazelnuts was on a tour of Hershey chocolates in Harrisburg. They had a machine that looked like a forklift but had a device in the front that grasped the main trunk at about 3-4 feet and then an oscillating motion was switched on for several seconds and that pretty much took care of putting it all on the ground. I have no idea why farms don't do that here. Hazelnuts do graft to Turkish tree hazel, which as the name implies, bears a single trunk.

I have seen different kinds of berry rakes for removing berries from the stem. Larry (aka plumfun) and I were chosen on the crew to pick hazelnuts in Corvallis OR about 10 years ago for the fruit show. There were enough cultivars that could readily be harvested from the ground already about September. The best was an early type from Italy with a complicated name I couldn't remember. I had thought it would be nice to graft it to my Turkish hazel but didn't because my tall tree is a great afternoon sun-block to the house.

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Larry_G
196 Posts
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January 29, 2023 - 12:04 pm

I assumed that commercial orchards shook the trees by coupling an eccentric mechanism to a motor and then around the trunk.
My Grandfather was doing this in Aurora, Oregon back in the 1930s and 1940s--said to be the local inventor of the method.

I drive by the considerable filbert acreage outside of Canby several times a year and have never seen a flock of birds or a squirrel cross the road there.
The farmers must have their methods.

Bloom time is approaching--I don't know how well the catkins tolerate a sub-freeze.

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GH
Battle Ground, WA
129 Posts
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January 31, 2023 - 1:48 am

Rooney and Larry_G, I'm familiar with the machine that you described to harvest hazelnuts. When I lived in the upper part of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, on Old Mission Peninsula near Traverse City, it sounds like what farmers there used to harvest tart cherries. They would shake the trees using the machine and then catch the fallen cherries on tarps placed under the cherry trees. It was amazing to watch. I always felt sorry for the trees, though, as it seemed so violent; whether or not it damaged them, I don't know.

I was hoping that someone on the forum would have a good idea of how early hazelnuts can be harvested, while still maintaining their delicious flavor. It might be worthwhile to contact the state of Oregon or maybe even one of the major universities in Oregon. If I'm able to find good information, I will post it here.

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davem
367 Posts
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January 31, 2023 - 6:39 pm

There is an off-leash dog park near my work, which has hazelnuts and many other nut and fruit trees (a former orchard, I imagine). Needless to say, the squirrels do not bother those Laugh

Re: shaking trees to harvest, that is how I harvest my cornelian cherries. I just put down a clean tarp, shake the tree, then pick up the tarp, and repeat every few days until all the fruit is harvested. Now I just need to find a good use for the fruit. Although I did just this week try putting some in the blender mixed with water. It easily separated the flesh from the pits, with hardly any pieces of pit chipped off (the pits are VERY hard). Probably a bit hard on the blender, but the blender is pretty tough. It tastes great in a smoothie.

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Dubyadee
Puyallup, Washington, USA
241 Posts
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January 31, 2023 - 10:34 pm

Filberts are ripe when you can press on the tip of the nut and roll it out of the husk. If the husk is not loose enough to let go then the nuts are not filled. I battled the squirrels for a few years trying to get a crop of filberts. I picked clusters of nuts that were still tight in the husk only to find them empty when they were dried. I finally gave up and cut down most of the trees and I am trying mulberries instead.

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Dubyadee
Puyallup, Washington, USA
241 Posts
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February 1, 2023 - 8:15 pm

Filberts are blooming now. Seems like they are two weeks later than usual.D6B2DF82-A3C9-43DA-AA6E-D5A0A8FE1C62.jpeg

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Rooney
Vancouver SW Washington
803 Posts
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February 4, 2023 - 5:01 pm

It's been speculated lately that in several more years any sales of peat moss will be prohibited because peat moss is a main carbon sink to combat global warming. If peat moss is allowed to be mined at the current rate the problem is that microbes in the normal dirt convert the peat and release the carbon into the atmosphere.

Last year was a mast year for my Turkish tree hazel. My 10 by 10 hot tub under the branches accumulated enough of those filbert catkins to fill two 5 gallon buckets. When kept bagged and in dry enough conditions it ended up staying in its original conditions. Ultimately filbert catkins and peat moss are both good ways of air layering plants. So if peat is not sold anymore then humanity might think of farming filbert catkins ahead of time and to fill in the void.

This year isn't a mast year but mostly bust on Turkish tree hazel for me.

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GH
Battle Ground, WA
129 Posts
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11
September 1, 2023 - 11:49 pm

Territorial Seed Company has this net for sale at around $150.  I decided to take a gamble on it, since harvesting a nice crop of filberts would be wonderful.  At $25/pound or more for organic hazelnuts, the justification is that the net could potentially "pay for itself" in a few years' time.  That's the logic I choose to use.

There have been nets for sale at other companies, but this is larger than the others.  It's 13'x13' and seems to be well constructed.  It wasn't too difficult for two of us to cover the shrub; it did involve the use of a ladder, but it wasn't bad.  We were able to work it into place, then zip it up (actually, down since the zipper starts at the top).

Jefferson is the test subject.  The nuts from Yamhill were already mostly eaten by birds when we got around to placing the net.  Jefferson also is later than Yamhill and has the largest nuts of the three trees.  Theta has the smallest nuts, and I probably wouldn't buy it again for that reason.

Theta is growing in tree form, but Jefferson and Yamhill are in bush form.  I trimmed the very top of Jefferson, just to make sure that the net would fit, but it wasn't necessary since there was plenty of material at ground level.  This obviously would not work on a mature/huge tree or bush - but so far keeping them fairly small hasn't been difficult and is something that I hope to continue doing.  The shrub's washed out appearance in the picture is due to the sun, it's green and healthy underneath.

Time will tell - we'll keep it on for another month or so just to be safe, and then I'll collect the nuts.  A report will then be posted!

If the net works as hoped, it may also be useful over one of the smaller sweet cherry trees next year.  

(Apologies for the large picture - I'll need to work on sizing next time.)

 

 

IMG20230823190945-1.jpg

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Chris M
Philomath, OR
167 Posts
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12
September 6, 2023 - 12:09 pm

Hope that net works out, our hazel's are basically squirrel feeders.

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GH
Battle Ground, WA
129 Posts
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13
November 14, 2023 - 12:16 am

The net was a success!  I was able to collect 12 unshelled pounds of Jefferson hazelnuts, which should yield at least 5 pounds of shelled nuts.  It was fairly simple for two of us to remove the net and collect the nuts.  I am so happy with the results.  Next year we'll install the net around the beginning of August, since this year the shrub didn't get covered until the latter part of August (nuts were already disappearing by this time).

I may try this net on one of my sweet cherry trees next year, since I've yet to even taste a cherry from three trees.  It may not work for cherries, since harvesting them may be too difficult, but it's worth exploring.  

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Chris M
Philomath, OR
167 Posts
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14
November 14, 2023 - 12:49 pm

Great , glad it worked so well.

 

Our cherries are way to big for a net(they are decades old) , it might work for hazels(some of them, we also have some old hazels that are also to big). I don't have any olives, but it looks like it might exclude the olive fly as well.

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John S
PDX OR
2868 Posts
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15
November 15, 2023 - 9:00 am

Good solution to the problem.  You probably have a lot of severely annoyed squirrels.

John S
PDX OR

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Dannytoro1
66 Posts
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16
November 15, 2023 - 10:52 am

Lol....In these parts they cull the squirrels for culinary purposes in the late fall.

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GH
Battle Ground, WA
129 Posts
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17
November 20, 2023 - 1:38 am

Yes, John S, and also the birds won't be happy with the use of this net.  It's okay, though, because our property has quite a bit for the birds and squirrels and other wildlife to eat - I don't feel too badly about using this or crop cages to protect the blueberry bushes.  Having said that, it's pretty common in the summer for the robins to let me know that they don't appreciate my presence in the orchard - especially this year when a couple raised their babies in one of the grape vines.

Quite a few volunteer hazelnut trees have popped up in garden beds over the last couple of years, beside the orchard where my hazelnut trees are located (thank you, squirrels).  Most of them should be crosses of these named varieties, so I have been transplanting some of them to areas where they can grow as they want (but still fairly close to the orchard hazelnut trees).  Has anyone had experience with these volunteers?  Is it reasonable to expect decent filberts from a cross (probably) of two named varieties?

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John S
PDX OR
2868 Posts
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18
November 20, 2023 - 8:33 pm

I only have filberts that the squirrels and birds planted.  I don't take the time to try to get the nuts.  Until I saw that net, I never saw a way to make that practical.  I have been thinking of using the wood to grow shiitake mushrooms on.

John S
PDX OR

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GH
Battle Ground, WA
129 Posts
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19
November 22, 2023 - 7:56 pm

I didn't see a way to edit a post, so I will make the correction here.  

The tent that was used on the hazelnut was purchased from Greenhouse Megastore, not Territorial Seed Company.  The regular price as of this past June 2023 was $129.99, and the sale price was $110.49; shipping was free.  I had looked at one from Territorial, but the tent from Greenhouse Megastore was larger and less expensive.  My apologies for the misstatement.

The Jefferson hazelnuts that were harvested are delicious.  They may be a little smaller than those that can be purchased, but the size is more than offset by the flavor.  My plans definitely involve purchasing a second tent in order to cover the Yamhill hazelnut shrub, with the hope that Yamhill tastes as good as Jefferson.

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