We gathered hazelnuts today. Many had fallen off the branches and others fell after we shook the branches gently. The outside leaves protecting the nuts had started to turn brown and the nuts easily separated from their casings. We have learned from experience that if the nuts stick to the outside leaves, they are not ready to harvest.
For a little history, we planted two Fingerlakes Filbert Super Hardy hazelnut bushes in the Spring of 2006, purchased from Miller Nurseries. The catalog explained that these hazelnuts are a cross between the tree hazel and the European filbert, giving them the attributes of both: large nut size, productiveness and early bearing traits as well as being disease-resistant, vigorous and hardy to USDA zone 4. They resist aphids and bud mites without spraying, and the nut quality is excellent. In most cases you have to plant two different varieties of hazelnuts to ensure proper pollination but the catalog explained that two Fingerlakes plants are sufficient.
Two hazelnut bushes:
At six years, the bushes are now almost four feet high and three feet wide. We have been watching them closely because this year, one of the bushes was literally covered with hazelnut clusters. We have had small harvests in earlier years but this one promised to be our best yet. Previous harvest had been too small for us to notice what was clearly evident this year. Our two bushes produce very, very differently.
When we opened up the nut clusters we gathered from the tree that was covered with them, we found between five and seven small hazelnuts within each cluster; each nut averaging about one centimeter in width. We only harvested about half of the clusters because the remaining clusters did not fall from the bush when we shook the branches.
Cluster of hazelnuts:
When we finished opening the clusters, we had dozens and dozens of very small hazelnuts, smaller than the size of a dime.
The other tree produced about one dozen nuts, either singly or in clusters of two.
Each mature nut measured a little larger than two centimeters in width.
The two bushes grow within ten feet of each other, in similar soil, moisture and sunlight conditions. The bushes are very similar in size, height and trunk diameter. Both are mulched with wood chips on a slight southern slope. Is the difference in the plants’ genetics or could there be something environmental? Would the bush with very small hazelnuts produce larger nuts if I pruned the branches back this fall?
Gardening is an adventure. Sometimes you don’t know what you planted until several years have past. The description in the catalog did not suggest that there would be significant differences in the nut size although looking back, the fact that you can plant two of the same kind and still get proper pollination suggests that there might be significant genetic differences.
Anyway, we have set all our hazelnuts in a warm dry place to dry and we will enjoy eating them all, whether large or small, when they are finished.
-- "To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves." M. Gandhi