Tag Archives: hazelnut

Strategic trees: hazelnut

On a regional permaculture listserv, someone asked the great question of what trees are strategic to grow during these challenging and chaotic times. That thread received some good answers, including a shoutout to hickories, willows, cypress, hazels, the great book Trees of Power by Akiva Silver, and more. Of course, diversity is a strategic priority in itself, as are site specific selections. Here, I’m sharing an ode to hazelnuts as one such strategic tree:

Hazels have a long history of resilience themselves, surviving climate chaos in the past and being in the birch family who extend to the edges of where hardwoods can survive. There is evidence of hazelnuts being a resilient food source for our ancient ancestors. In terms of site suitability, hazelnuts can be a good fit in both urban and rural settings.

Hazels are botanically unique in that their beautiful flowers stay open for pollination for weeks (a grower recently told me they observed one open for 8 weeks!) Those flowers can also be cold hardy down to -20F, so they are less vulnerable to climate chaos.

There’s so much more to say, but the last bit of inspiration I will share to encourage learning and engaging with hazels is this.

Of all the ways trees can provide for our basic needs in mutualism, hazels offer many gifts.

  • Food: can be eaten raw, can be used as a staple food in various ways, incredibly healthy, can be valuable for trade.
  • Fodder: can be forage for animals, good for wildlife.
  • Fuel: coppices provide a short-rotation source of dense firewood that does not require splitting, and the nut shells are also energy dense.
  • Fiber: hazel rods were used to build early cool temperate-climate homes, and their strong, flexible wood is handy for many tools and applications (even boats!)
  • Farmaceuticals: “Let food by thy medicine…”
  • Fun: Hazels have deep roots in my ancestral culture and many others. They make lovely places for wildlife and can be used in all kinds of play. Their pink flowers softly announce the arrival of spring, and that kind of forward-looking positivity is needed with the challenges and metaphoric-winters we face.

Hazelnut Happiness: Prose Proposing Corylus Seedlings as a Close Ally in Love and Life

The amazing abundance of trees from seed. Reforestation happens through a range of approaches, and from seed is one of the simplest, cheapest, and most time-tested of ways. It comes with pros and cons, the bad including relatively high loss and diversity of traits (such as shell thickness or fruiting time, which industrial operations seek consistency in). In such chaotic times diversity is good. This low-tech approach embraces loss en route to life. Life of the critters enjoying these trees & their seeds along the way, life that comes with the space and legacy of endings, life from letting life be as it will. Seed is a powerful source of sustenance, survival, and succession toward better local adaptation for chaotic futures.

Hazelnut seedlings growing in air-prune box nursery

Like the idea of trees and long-term improvement, enjoyment, environmental restoration, and if needed, sustenance? Hazelnuts are a tree you can trust to thrive easily and be enjoyable company. Measuring  in at 18ft high and 15ft across, these beautiful bushes have been at the heart of our ancestors’ lives for many, many millennia. Food; some of the healthiest fats available to us. Fiber for homes and many essential crafts. Fuel as both coppice1 firewood and as-energy-dense-as-coal residues (shells and husks) for burning (is that true? nearly2).

Hazel is a gift in social resilience as well. A folk hero. How do all the gifts hazel offers sound as renewables, compared with other strategies for food, fiber, fuel, health and wellness? Fossil fuels and  ‘renewable’ energy that depends on mining and toxic processing at industrial scales is degrading the foundations of life: water, soil, air, weather, ecosystems. How about a hedge of hazels instead?

How about a biocultural renewal? A deep adaptation? A relational agriculture that reciprocates and enhances nature’s gifts rather than degrading them.

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Thanks for the Hazelnut Harvest

Hazelnuts from my first times harvesting intensively, summer 2019, have lasted me through Jan 1. Maybe a quarter of my stash remains, still in shell stored safe and sound. I snack on hazels alone and in good company sporadically, this year being my first deep diving into staple tree foods. I look forward to incorporating these wonderfully healthy serious staple foods into my diet more in mutualism.

This bounty I’ve been snacking on is from one casual afternoon’s harvest with friends at Z’s Nutty Ridge, where I estimate I hand harvested ~2,000 nuts and kept half. I did another hazel harvest with local friends & nurserym’n one morning over the summer as well, collecting ~1,500 nuts that I’m stratifying in buckets to propagate from Dilmun Hill Organic Student Farm. I enjoyed reflecting on those harvests as I sat and had an after party hazelnut munch this Jan 1 middle of the night.

Both casual half-day harvests were some of the best days of the summer. Sure, it could get old if it was everyday work, but one thing that would not get old (or at least would help me get old) is that they were also some of the healthiest days of the summer. And here’s to health in surviving with’em: trees, gotta love’em. Thanks and peace.

Modular Air Prune Beds #0: Growing Bulk Hazelnuts from Seeds, Gathering and Short-Term Storage

I’m thankful for a good local community of agroforestry peoples, humans and trees.

A group of us gathered hazelnuts from a planting at the local university’s organic student farm. These decade-old bushes have ancestry from Badgersett Farm and Mark Shepard and are American x European hybrids, more American than European, rugged and highly productive.

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Wonderful planting workday & garden lunch – Elderberry guild, L-shaped nut & fruit bed, perennial pollinator bed – Sat, Sept 8, 2018

Thankful for a wonderful day forest gardening with good company. Started the day with J picking up some friends K & Ez to go pickup plants at a perennial native pollinator plant sale. One of them got some trees, we got a bunch of herbaceous flowery plants.

Back at home we started out by planting some of the Fava beans our friend from Puerto Rico brought us as seeds. They were growing well indoors and now that it’s cooler we’ll plant them, hoping they flower before frost but not until the max temps drop below 80dF (that heat can kill their flower).

Then we began planting an L shaped series of trees and bushes along the south and east side of our garden. The shorter bushes – black and red currants – are on the east side which is toward the house, allowing us to see over them into the garden. On the south side is a hazelnut, and we’ll locate another one or two relatively close to pollinate it. These trees were potted and grown that way for approximately a year by me, having been almost a year old when I got them. The hazelnut was purchased from Twisted Tree Farm nursery and the blackcurrants propagated through Alchemical Nursery. These trees will hopefully be propagated into more generations of them once they’re healthy and hearty-sized in their permanent location.

Then we moved on to extend the elderberry/mint/strawberry guild/bed, with a patch of pollinator flowers. Around this time a friend arrived to join in and help out. We yanked out tons of mint and lemon balm and hung ’em to dry. We dug roots out of the ground then planted the pollinators, laid cardboard around them and covered it with mulch and some rocks we had. Can always use more mulch, and we were low on rocks.

We planted pollinators in the front yard too but not before having an amazing lunch. It started as an idea for a quick snack, a garden fresh cuke seseme salad, but it turned into a smorgasbord of that, Brazilian cheesy bread, garden fresh tomatoes with basil and fennel, roasted anchovies, shrimp fried rise, and an amazing chicken noodle soup our neighbor brought over (we just learned she’s a chef and owned her own restaurant, as we gave her garden fresh food! hopefully that’s a wonderful win win symbiotic relationship).

In the front we were able to reuse mulch already in a planting bed.

Overall we used 3:1  mix of native soil with compost/tree planting soil mix. Much of the excess native soil went in the heap compost to enhance it and get enhanced by it! Speaking of soil, we chopped and dropped some grasses and used that as mulch or added it to the heap compost. Looking forward to more chop and drop, and soil building!