Hazelnuts provide a very profitable income far above what any annual grain crop can do, after the necessary 6-year wait before trees produce a significant amount of nuts. Assuming only 2000 pounds of nuts (up to 2800 lb), hazelnuts, also called Filberts, are popular with self-sufficient gardeners and backyard gardeners because of their rapid growth and relatively easy care. They are also decorative and can be arranged as rows of hedges or independent accents. These trees grow to about 10 feet tall and about that width (if not pruned) and have a very shrubby appearance.
Filberts may not be good candidates for growing in containers for more than a few years, but they may be worth experimenting with. 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. Only after the EFB mushroom crept into southwest Washington in the 1960s and later into Oregon's Willamette Valley did the Great American Hazelnut Hunt really begin. UMHDI's goal is to develop hazel germplasm that is acclimated to Upper Midwest growing conditions and with predictable performance that can support profitable marketed production.
Hazel transplants are best planted in early or late winter, when the plants are dormant and the heat will not affect the tree. Hybrid hazelnuts, native hazelnuts crossed with European hazelnuts, are the heart of their work. Even though it's most famous for its nuts, it's helpful to have the hazelnut plant on the farm for a number of different reasons. If you have a large garden or orchard, it may be worthwhile to have your soil tested by a qualified laboratory so that you know for sure what your soil needs.
Another method of growing hazelnuts is to find a bush of wild hazelnuts or have a friend who is willing to share. For Sunday breakfast, when I usually make something elegant for my family, I like to top off the pancakes with roasted hazelnuts or pralines. Because of the way hazelnuts are grown, there is little you can do to keep squirrels away from trees, other than enclosing them in a fruit cage covered with wire mesh, which seems a bit excessive. Hazelnuts form catkins and flowers in early spring, mid-March in the Midwest, where I live, and don't form leaves until several weeks later.
If you're in the mood for a decadent treat, look no further than this delicious recipe for dark chocolate and hazelnut truffles. Hazelnuts are monoecious, meaning that they produce male and female flowers on the same tree, although they may not bloom at the same time. I would love to hear from other gardeners who grow hazelnuts, shells, or filberts, or even any nut. Hazelnuts won because, on the one hand, labor needs seemed more compatible with the family's work of producing milk and growing 1,400 acres of corn, soybeans, alfalfa, winter wheat and a cover crop of rye for fodder.