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How to tell if hazelnuts are ready to pick?

 
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Rather than wait for the squirrels

I grew them from seed from Twisted Tree and at 4 years old  just last year they did the catkin thing, had the tiny red blooms and set nuts.

Now, we are concerned that a rodent will decide they are ready before we have a chance to harvest.

Any sure fire way to tell?
We've picked a few to test...shell seems full size and turning brown and there is a nut but not so flavorful yet and maybe on the small side.
20230726_170253-2.jpg
hazelnuts ripeness test
 
master pollinator
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We always wait for them to fall. Any time I've picked a nut from one of our trees it's been immature. Another thing I've noticed is that the good ones fall free of the calyx. Any time I find one that's still attached, it's empty (squirrel decoy strategy? why else would the tree put so much energy into growing a complete and full-sized hard shell when there's no embryo to protect?)

We don't have squirrels, though. We do have rats, and when they discover a nut that they like, it's game on. So far we lose a few walnuts and the majority of our macadamias to rat predation (I even try baiting the rat traps with freshly cracked nuts, but they're too wary). But they haven't yet figured out the hazelnuts...smell maybe?
 
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I'm hoping for a good nut year this year too. My own planted trees seem to be setting well for the first time, and also the native trees look like they've set a good crop. Like soft fruit however, the wildlife are there 24/7 and often get to the nuts even before they are really ripe. I always think the nuts are ripe when they  come loose from their husk easily. If the stem breaks rather than the nut coming cleanly free, then they need a bit longer. There may be differences in American hazelnuts compared to European hazelnuts though in that respect.
 
Judith Browning
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Thank you Phil!
I don't think it would work here for us to wait for them to fall...when we had them in the wild near by mice and chipmunks got them just before we intended to.

Floating them sounds like a good way to sort.

Now that I've asked the question I see a thread asking the same in similar threads and I did try to do a good search first...seems like that happens a lot.

https://permies.com/t/121713/American-Hazelnut-ready-harvest
 
Judith Browning
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Thanks Nancy!

I don't know the difference either...I do think we'll have to pick them earlier than optimum in order to get any at all.

 
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We have wild hazels that don't usually fall free from the calyx.

If the calyx is starting to dry, the nuts should be ready. I rarely get to pick any that late, but it's seemed to be a reliable visual cue in the odd year the squirrels leave me any.

I find the nuts don't really have much flavour until they're dried, so yours might not be as lacking in flavour as you think. I love the fresh nuts, though. Same with walnuts.
 
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I was taught to pick hazelnuts while still mostly green but when they're well-formed. They dry (cure) just fine for the most part. I would  wait, as suggested, until the calyx just begins to dry and then harvest. But results may vary. This works for me with wild hazelnuts and blight immune European ones
 
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