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Permies likes wild harvesting and the farmer likes harvesting nuts permies
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harvesting nuts

rachael hamblin

Joined: Mar 10, 2008
Posts: 129
What's the correct timing and method for harvesting nuts?  I know its not the season for it now (obviously) but the thread on acorn hummus got me thinking about it.  We have a hazelnut tree in our yard and tried to harvest some last year but by the time we got to them the nuts were molding.  Do you wait for them to drop or pick them off the tree?  And do you have to dry them somehow so that they'll keep?  Thanks!
Dave Boehnlein

Joined: Jun 10, 2007
Posts: 291
Location: Orcas Island, WA
Although it doesn't cover hazels, here is a publication all nut enthusiasts should have:


It goes into the details of how to harvest, process, and store walnuts, pecans, chestnuts, almonds, and pistacios and it is all focused on the home scale grower.

Woo hoo!


Principal - Terra Phoenix Design
rachael hamblin

Joined: Mar 10, 2008
Posts: 129
Wow that is an awesome article.  Thanks Dave!
Susan Monroe

Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
You harvest hazelnuts/filbert in August and September, off the ground.

The trick is to beat the birds, which seem to know which have meats in them and which don't.

Dump them into a bucket of water and discard any floaters (they're empty, no meats) and save the ones that sink.

Shell them, freeze them in airtight containers, toast them before using (even for baking), 20-30 minutes at 250F, 10-15 minutes at 350F.  Try both ways and see which results you prefer.

Matt Ferrall

Joined: Dec 26, 2008
Posts: 555
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
As far as hazel nuts go.In areas where predation from stellers jay or squirrles is not a problem or production far exceeds losses to them,waiting for them to fall is an option.Especially if the ground is mowed or easy to crawl around on.If I'm going to be doing that for any length of time,knee pads come in real handy as bending down constantly is very ineficiant.Depending on the variety,the nuts can sit on the ground for a month or two before mold becomes a real problem and a few nuts will still be good into the spring.This is ,after all ,one of their reproductive stratagies.Where predation is an issue(most rural areas with forest around),picking directly from the tree is your best bet.A great tool you can make to assist you is screwing a giant hook into an old tool handle.This can be used to pull branches down within reach.Of course a ladder is handy too.European hazels trained to a single trunk will require getting up there but those trained as multiple stems(as well as the native hazel) can be pulled down(use the hook)to a more resonable hight.In order to beat the wildlife,you will have to pick them while they are still abit green.If you live close enough to the trees to have a close relationship with them,you will know when to start picking by watching the wildlife.Once they start or even show genuine interest,then its on!!It is not uncommon in good years for me to get 20#an hr in a U-pick or cultivated setting.Feral settings or native hazels average 5-10# an hr(not including driving or recon).My best years have been 25#+hr in the former,and one year I pulled in 80#total over two days on the native hazel.Of course thats with 10+years of experience and  site recon.08 was the worse year ive ever experienced for hazels.

There is nothing permanent in a culture dependent on such temporaries as civilization.

Matt Ferrall

Joined: Dec 26, 2008
Posts: 555
Location: Western WA,usda zone 6/7,80inches of rain,250feet elevation
As far as drying  hazels goes,I generally will just put small amounts in baskets in a dry area in the house.Next to the woodstove works great.The key is not to let the piles get too deep.2 deep max.For those production minded folks out there,I highly recomend re-appropriating a bread rack from behind a grocery store.And wouldnt you know in,the plastic bread trays themselves are like pre made screens perfect for nuts.These giant metal racks can dry 200#2deep.After drying them near the stove for a month or two in my shop(with the stove on only a few days a week),I just role the rack(d*mn,these racks are convenient!)to the other side of the room where its a bit cooler and take em off as I need em .My dog uses the bottom two trays as a self feeder.Now if only I could get him to crack them outside!
Leah Sattler

Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I was unaware that they could be picked green mt. goat thanks! that is funny about your dog. I have  heeler mix that was always FAT! I had at one point decided enough was enough and started drastically cutting back on her food allowance. but the thing is its not like she was getting much to begin with. I cut her back to only a small handfull each night of dog food and she was still chunky. while sitting in the backyard though I realized that although I thought she had alwalys liked chewing sticks, it wasn't sticks, it was pecans. she has taught our newer dog (1.5 year) to eat pecans too. its kinda funny watching them in the backyard crunching pecans, rather like giant squirrels.


"One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. - Dr. Michel Odent
Steve Nicolini

Joined: Nov 15, 2008
Posts: 224
Which hazelnut does good in Western WA?  I know the native beaked hazelnuts are in the forests around here, but what domestic ones get real nutty?
Susan Monroe

Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
Cross-pollination is an issue with hazelnuts.

Go to the Burnt Ridge Nursery site and check out his hazelnuts.  Michael is very knowledgeable about all his plants, and will answer emails.  He's in Onalaska, WA.    http://www.burntridgenursery.com/

Alison Thomas

Joined: Jul 22, 2009
Posts: 933
Location: France
Ok, excuse my ignorance but I'm new to nut harvesting.  Why do you need to dry them first?  And why do you toast them before use?

Our dog will do anything for a ground nut - easy peasy to take to dog training classes.
Heidi Bohan

Joined: Feb 14, 2008
Posts: 20
Location: Snoqualmie Valley, Western Washington
My new place has a two large hazelnut trees (cultivated varieties) and two big walnuts trees right here in Snoqualmie Valley (east of Seattle). I have yet to weight but I bet I got 100 lbs of walnuts of the front yard tree alone.  I have learned;

Hazelnuts are hard to beat to jays and squirrels, but I figured out if I went out first thing in the morning I'd find many dropped overnight and beat the critters. I eventually put down some tarps too, so they didn'et fall into foliage. Next year I will tarp, shake and gather. I may even net the trees. We also began to manage the Eastern Grey Squirrel at that time and that helped me get a good sized basket full of hazelnuts, which I then put in baskets on top of dehydrator, and even dried some in the dehydrator when I had room.

Last year, after dozens of grey squirrels converged on the place and had major squirrel wars over the walnuts for weeks, we did not get a single walnut. Just a mountain of debris under the tree (they don't wait for them to get ripe they chew though the green hull) and a million buried nuts found throughout the year. This year I determined that if I was going to have great big walnut tree blocking the view of the house and shading overly much, i was going to get some nuts from it, and especially since nuts are the perfect example of ‘permanent agriculture’, nutritionally ,etc.

The grey squirrel was introduced for hunting, so hunt them we did, I used traps and a pellet gun. This is okayed by Fish & Wildlife which view them as invasive and a threat to indigenous wildlife (they eat baby birds, especially native birds which have not adapted to this animal, attack native squirrels, etc). We have no grey squirrels comeing around now, and I will be very interested to see if we begin to see the native squirrel return as I've seen happen in the past, which don’t really bother the nuts. And no I didn’t eat the squirrels though I thought about it. I’ve had some permies tell me that they hunt them and then use them to make food for their animals. Nice loop.

All to say I picked bucket after bucket full of walnuts this year. Which I then dried as promptly as possible, removing any hulls. I put them in big baskets and cardboard boxes adn set them over any heat source I could find. If I thought they were too wet I dried them in the dehydrator. I learned too that if you shelled them raw, and peeled off the thin membrane around the meat, they were delicious, it is that membrane which is bitter. If you don't dry them (cure) they can mold inside the shell, if you leave the hull on it makes them bitter (the tannins seep in).  I have been using them in my oatmeal, as a snack, in cookies, and they are the best I've had. Very jazzed. Will use them for barter.  And maybe for sale. (2.50 / # in the shell at a recent farmers market I went to).

Heidi Bohan, Ethnobotanist, educator, author- People of Cascadia, Starflower Native Plant ID Cards; Skills based mentorship programs

Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
rachael hamblin wrote:
What's the correct timing and method for harvesting nuts?  I know its not the season for it now (obviously) but the thread on acorn hummus got me thinking about it.  We have a hazelnut tree in our yard and tried to harvest some last year but by the time we got to them the nuts were molding.  Do you wait for them to drop or pick them off the tree?  And do you have to dry them somehow so that they'll keep?  Thanks!

When you are growing nuts, it is only natural to be curious about when you will be able to harvest them. This timeline gives the harvesting ranges for many common nuts. The times may vary to some degree depending on your location and the nut variety.




Macadamia Nuts:Late fall-spring




if you have any more information instead of above then let me know and I will be glad to help you out.

All the best!

Rain Water Harvesting


Joined: Sep 20, 2010
Posts: 33
For any of us who are stir crazy and/or cabin bound...

The fullness of a hazelnut/filbert can be determined by dropping the nut from the distance of a couple inches onto a hard surface, like a table, and watching the nut.  If it bounces you are all but guaranteed that the shell is empty.
If it almost sticks to the table there is a nice fat nut inside.  Your sense of hearing can aid in this as well.

Do not try this in the presence of any sane person as their sanity will quickly leave them.
Alison Thomas

Joined: Jul 22, 2009
Posts: 933
Location: France
I am already insane - I'm about to go try this 
Lisa Paulson

Joined: Apr 17, 2010
Posts: 254
I visited with a home grower of walnuts and hazelnuts here in Southwestern BC.  He is 80 years old and still tending a thriving orchard on 5 acres with 50 nut trees and 60 fruit trees.  He had an imposing fence system to keep unwanted critters out and says he still has to pick hazelnuts off the tree before they are ready to fall as the jays and squirrels get them.  He advised me to plant volunteer seedlings but to graft a known good nut producing wood on to get a better tree. 

Delilah Gill

Joined: Dec 03, 2010
Posts: 35
Location: Southern Georgia
If they are available, consider growing Butternuts, my favorite, but watch out for their thorns.
Rebecca Dane

Joined: Aug 31, 2010
Posts: 211
Location: Missoula Montana
When I lived in Colorado I learned about harvesting pin nuts (pinon nuts) from a particular pine tree that only grows between 3200 and 8000 feet and best in certain regions, such as Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. 

They have an abundance about every 3 to 4 years.  If you are going to sell them you are supposed to get a permit from the state, but they don't really mind if you just want a few for yourself.  Kind of like pine cones.

I found a place where I could just sit on an old pillow and pick them off the ground.  Other people shook the trees or picked them off the cones on the trees, but then you get the sticky pin tar all over your fingers.  It is messy and hard to get off.  I found the ones under the trees were not sticky, easy to pick up, and really tasty. 

After reading up on pinon nuts, I found you can put them in a container of water and throw out the ones that float as they are old or hollow inside from lack of water or bad growing season. 

I picked a couple of times and just ran out of pine nuts after about 3 years.  Of course, you have to shell them, but that's half the fun.  You can roast them or eat them raw.  I think of them like a sunflower seed.  Crack the shell with your teeth, then take out the nut and throw out the shell. 

Missoula Massage
subject: harvesting nuts
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