Cracker of a season
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.