Hazelnuts are relatively quick and easy to grow, don't require as much space as other nut trees, and produce sweet and delicious nuts every summer. Native hybrid hazelnuts provide a crop that is constantly in short supply, is well known to consumers and that almost grow on their own. By Dawn and Jeff Zarnowski Tasty and healthy hazelnuts are used in many food products desired by consumers and are chronically in short supply. Nearly all hazelnuts consumed in North America come from Oregon or Turkey.
However, hazel trees are native to the eastern half of North America, from Louisiana to Georgia in the south, to Manitoba and Quebec in the north. Native hazel trees (Corylus americana) are resistant, resistant to diseases and are very tolerant to a wide range of growing conditions, yet there is a shortage of nuts. Native walnuts tend to be small and not as tasty as European hazelnuts (Corylus avellana), which have been selected for their quality for hundreds and thousands of years. This is where the hybridization of the two species of hazelnuts over the past century has resulted in new varieties that have the best qualities of both.
Hazelnut organizations have been formed to promote the cultivation of this native crop with better qualities. Another wonderful thing about hazel trees is that you don't have to wait long before the tree gives nuts for you to eat. Hazelnuts start producing in as little as 4 years and produce large yields in year six or seven. In addition, you can choose to grow it as a shrub or a single-stem tree.
A multi-stemmed shrub will form if you do not cut or cut off the shoots that grow near the base of the tree. Shrub-like, it will grow from 8 feet to 12 feet tall. In the form of a bush, hazelnut allows you to easily pick nuts by hand and carry out environmental plantations without worries for erosion control or as a hedge. If you choose to grow it as a single-stem tree, it will grow from 14 feet to 16 feet tall and almost as wide.
Once the tree is large enough to shade the base, the shoots will not grow. Native hazel is adaptable and easy to grow; but it took many generations of hybridization to generate native trees with large, tasty nuts. Having a hazelnut plant adds color and depth to your garden, depending on the type you plan to grow. Planting them is not as difficult as it sounds, but it will require quite a bit of maintenance, especially pruning.
A newly planted hazel tree doesn't start producing a nut crop until the tree is established. A first harvest of hazelnuts can be expected within two to five years of planting the tree. Starter crops are usually small, but as the tree matures, the crops increase in size. A mature hazel tree can produce up to 25 pounds of nuts in a single year.
Once a tree starts producing, you can expect a new crop of hazelnuts every year, up to 50 years. If a hazel tree is more than five years old and has not yet produced nuts, the tree is likely to lose its mate. Hazelnuts require cross-pollination of a different hazelnut cultivar to produce a nut crop. You must grow two hazel trees with strong genetic differences, one as a pollinator and one as a producer to get a nut crop.
These trees must be about 65 feet apart from each other for cross-pollination to occur. Pollination and fertilization should also be done in order for your hazel to start producing nuts. While most trees bloom and pollinate during spring, hazel is unusual, as it blooms and pollination occurs during the winter. Despite the need for a different cultivar for fertilization, hazel trees bloom with male and female flowers.
The male flowers are elongated and yellow, while the female flowers are small and red. Pollen travels in the breeze during the winter to the female flowers of the nut-producing tree. Pollen is stored there and the tree remains dormant until spring, when fertilization occurs, signaling the tree to start producing nuts. Once a tree is established, in its second to fifth year, you will begin to notice hazelnut formation during the month of May.
As they continue to grow on the tree, hazelnuts are green. As the nuts mature, they begin to turn brown. Hazelnuts mean they are ready to harvest when they fall from the tree. Nuts begin to fall off the tree in August, but are usually ready for harvest during September and October.
Because of their dense canopy and blocking sunlight, hazel trees often have very little grass growing underneath them, making it easier to spot and harvest walnuts when they fall to the ground. In Utah, hazelnuts grown for nut production are generally kept as shrubs, with an oval or round shape that grows up to 15 feet tall and wide. Hazelnuts thrive in loamy, well-drained soils, but they grow in many types of soil as long as the soil is well-drained. Nut production is best when cross-pollinated with another variety of the same species (see Table 1) and/or with other plants grown with seeds of the same species.
Once in the ground, they will dig and spend the winter, and they will reappear in the spring to lay eggs on the hazelnuts. Table 1 presents American hazel and other relatively cold-tolerant species that are resistant to USDA zones 3 or 4 (equivalent to an average minimum temperature of -30 to -40° F) depending on the variety and can be grown in most areas of Utah. Hazelnuts prefer well-drained and fairly low nutrient soil; too rich soil gives abundant leaf growth at the expense of flowers and nuts. While hazelnuts are relatively low-maintenance, there are a few things you'll need to do to make them produce.
Hazelnuts are not trees in the normal sense, but shrubs that can grow quite tall and tall without pruning. Hazelnuts should not be planted in lawns where turf and woody plants have different irrigation requirements and compete for nutrients. These resistant species and hybrids can still suffer flower damage due to extreme temperature fluctuations when they bloom. I have found several wild trees that grow along the road where I live (west of Boone, North Carolina), and I have planted 17 hazelnut trees from the Arbor Hazelnut Initiative.
You can pick hazelnuts that grow directly from the tree if you want, but when they are fully ripe, you can shake them directly on a sheet or tarp. Hazelnuts are naturally fertile, so they prefer well-drained soil that doesn't have a lot of nutrients. I'm just trying to establish if there is really NO competition for this market in my area, where hazelnuts seem to grow very well everywhere, even in partial shade and clay soil. You should also watch for squirrels that could feed on growing hazelnuts, as they will eat ripe and immature nuts.