season goes nuts
IT has been a slow and steady harvest for hazelnut growers Christie Mcleod and Mick Delphin.
As with many crops, last year’s extremely wet spring has affected yields at the couple’s Hazelbrae Hazel Nut orchard near Hagley
Miss Mcleod said they expected yields would be about 18 tonnes this year, down on the bumper 25-tonne crop they were hoping for.
Mr Delphin said while the hazelnut trees could deal with wet soil conditions when they were dormant and had no leaves, last year’s very wet spring stretched into the new growing period, which had affected the size and quantity of their nuts.
Harvest is also taking a bit longer this year.
Miss Mcleod said while they had already harvested some rows in the orchard three times, nuts were still dropping.
“It has just been a really strange season,” she said.
“The trees seem to be holding on to the nuts a lot longer than normal. It might be because of the spring and also the fact we haven’t had much hot dry weather.”
Harvest will be wrapped up in the next few days.
After they have been collected by a special harvesting machine the nuts are cleaned and dried and sorted according to size.
Once they have been processed and dried, hazelnuts will keep for up to two years
Miss Mcleod said while they had more smaller nuts than usual this year, there were still plenty of things they could do with them.
This includes using some to make hazelnut oil and also hazelnut butter.
Despite the challenging season in the orchard, visitor numbers to the couple’s onsite cafe have been growing.
Miss Mcleod said overall visitor numbers in the past 12 months had doubled.
Tour groups are now common and Miss Mcleod said they received a lot of good feedback from visitors.
Most of their nuts are currently sold in Tasmania through local retailers and farmers’ markets.
“We originally started the shop so we could stop going to the markets but we’ve developed such a great customer base at the markets we don’t really want to stop,” Miss Mcleod said.
“The customers at the markets are so loyal and some we see every week and know their names.”
They plan to also expand sales into the export market.
Miss Mcleod said initially they would probably sell nuts through subscription to people who had visited the farm from such places as Hong Kong and mainland China.
With some parts of the orchard yet top reach full maturity production across the orchard will keep increasing over the next few years.
However, Miss Mcleod said, demand for fresh locally grown nuts was strong and was still outstripping supply.