Cracker of a sea­son

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS - KAROLIN MACGREGOR

FINE and warm weather is prov­ing ideal for wal­nut har­vest­ing across Tas­ma­nia.

Af­ter low yields last year in cold and wet con­di­tions, Walnuts@Howth own­ers Scott and Natasha Crispin are hop­ing for a bumper crop this year.

Mr Crispin started har­vest­ing last week and he said so far things were go­ing well.

“It’s a bit ear­lier than nor­mal, but the nuts were start­ing to crack open so I thought we’d bet­ter start,” he said.

There are 1250 wal­nut trees in the or­chard, which is spread over about 3.6ha.

The or­chard in­cludes two va­ri­eties, with the early-sea­son type be­ing har­vested now.

Mr Crispin is ex­pect­ing yields of up to five tonnes this year. All the nuts are har­vested by hand and all up it will take about four weeks.

“You can get me­chan­i­cal har­vesters, but do­ing it by hand we sort them out as we go,” he said. “It’s just an eas­ier way to do it.”

The trees were orig­i­nally planted about 19 years ago and the Crispins pur­chased the or­chard two years ago.

Once har­vested, the nuts are put in a drier to re­duce mois­ture lev­els by about 25 per cent. The dry­ing takes about three days and then the nuts can be stored for pro­cess­ing.

The on-farm pro­cess­ing fa­cil­ity also in­cludes a crack­ing ma­chine.

Mr Crispin said while they do sell some in-shell nuts, he prefers to crack them to en­sure the qual­ity is spot on.

“At least once they’re cracked you can ac­tu­ally see what’s in­side, but it’s very hard to tell while the shell is still on.”

Mr Crispin said a rea­son­able crop this year would en­able them to also do some value-adding.

The cou­ple pro­duce wal­nut oil and the ma­te­rial left over af­ter the oil has been ex­tracted is then used to make wal­nut flour, which is gluten free.

“Noth­ing is wasted, that’s one of the best things about them,” Mr Crispin said.

“I’ve done a lot of read­ing since we bought this place and they’re very good for you.”

The cou­ple sell nuts to a num­ber of mar­kets in­clud­ing into Queens­land.

Mr Crispin said he had also re­ceived in­quiries from po­ten­tial buy­ers over­seas, but the vol­umes re­quired were much more than they can pro­duce.

While the nuts grow well at Howth, Mr Crispin said the area’s high lev­els of hu­mid­ity did cause is­sues with blight which can dam­age the nuts.

While pre­ven­tive sprays can be ap­plied, Mr Crispin said more re­search was needed to de­velop a treat­ment to get rid of the dis­ease once it hit the or­chard.

As well as walnuts, the cou­ple are also ex­pand­ing the farm to in­clude into rasp­berry and gar­lic pro­duc­tion.

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