8 nuts you need to grow in 2017

In our fast food world, grow­ing your own nuts is a longterm plan, but these trees don’t need a lot of at­ten­tion and hav­ing your own fresh, free nut sup­ply is def­i­nitely worth a few years of wait­ing.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents - WORDS SH­ERYN CLOTH­IER

One of the ben­e­fits of own­ing a bit of land is hav­ing the space to grow large or mul­ti­ple trees, which means we can grow our own nuts.

Home-grown nuts have a flavour of their own. When you har­vest a fresh hazel, it’s noth­ing like what you can buy in a su­per­mar­ket.

If you don’t believe in the su­pe­rior taste, see if you can source some New Zealand nuts from your lo­cal farm­ers’ mar­ket or or­der some on­line. The fresh­ness takes nuts from an ok food into the scrump­tious category. Then, imag­ine hav­ing your own main­te­nance-free and dol­lar-free sup­ply fall­ing an­nu­ally in the far pad­dock.

The sooner you plant, the sooner you will reap the ben­e­fits. Nut trees take 3-10 years to start pro­duc­ing, but once they do, they con­tinue sup­ply­ing a tasty, healthy crop for decades with very lit­tle main­te­nance. We’re very lucky that New Zealand is still free of most of the pests and dis­eases that af­fect many nuts trees in the rest of the world.

The trees them­selves can be mul­tipur­pose, serv­ing as stock shel­ter, an­i­mal fod­der, tim­ber, wind­breaks or ri­par­ian plants. Since nuts fall to the ground, the trees can be pruned up high above stock or ve­hi­cle height. Just give con­sid­er­a­tion to col­lect­ing the nuts in au­tumn and en­sure that the ground below is suit­able.

1 Chest­nuts The chest­nut is well suited to New Zealand’s tem­per­ate cli­mate and grows in­cred­i­bly eas­ily into a large, beau­ti­ful tree. We are lucky not to have blight and other dis­eases which af­fect it in other coun­tries so it is pretty much main­te­nance-free. Prune off low branches to form a lovely shade tree, or al­ter­na­tively chest­nuts can be cop­piced and used for fence posts as the tim­ber is rot-re­sis­tant.

Don’t plant over an ac­cess way or well-fre­quented area as the nuts fall with a prickly burr (out­side shell). Choose a site with good drainage too as chest­nut trees can suf­fer from phy­toph­thora (root rot) if grown in wa­ter­logged soil.

They are large, long-lived trees that are a great shade and fod­der op­tion for stock. I have seen a flock of sheep en­joy­ing the nuts and the nut­shell, and the bark and leaves all con­tain tan­nins ben­e­fi­cial to all an­i­mals, es­pe­cially al­pacas.

Some va­ri­eties are sold as self-fer­tile but you will in­crease your pro­duc­tion sub­stan­tially if you plant a sec­ond tree of a dif­fer­ent va­ri­ety as a pol­li­na­tor. They are wind-pol­li­nated and at Christ­mas time have at­trac­tive long catkins re­leas­ing the male pollen. Trees take about four years to start pro­duc­ing.

I har­vest with sturdy boots and a pair of kitchen tongs. The nuts are dried for a cou­ple of days to in­crease sweet­ness, boiled, halved, scooped out and frozen. If you want to roast them in their shells, it’s im­por­tant to pierce the skin to pre­vent them ex­plod­ing dur­ing cook­ing.

Chest­nuts have a low oil con­tent com­pared to other nuts so can be slightly dry. For more on how to process and use chest­nuts, check out page 58. 2 Wal­nuts Wal­nuts are also large, easy-care and long-lived trees. They suit most tem­per­ate cli­mates ex­cept high hu­mid­ity which can cause blight on the nuts.

They like any well-drained soil (24 hours of wa­ter­log­ging can kill a tree) and are gen­er­ally pretty hardy.

The down­side is that the roots ex­crete a toxin called ju­glone which is poi­sonous to most plants, in­clud­ing grass. They make a won­der­ful shade tree but the ju­glone ef­fect means they of­ten over­hang a mud patch in win­ter.

One tree pro­duces enough for a fam­ily once it gets into full pro­duc­tion, which can take 10 years for a seedling. A grafted tree will start to produce ear­lier but will cost more (graft­ing wal­nuts is a bit tricky). Some ni­troge­nous com­post helps them to get es­tab­lished.

As well as the au­tumn crop, you can har­vest the un­ripe nut, husk and all, at Christ­mas time to pickle them. Wal­nuts are great with cheese.

3 Pecans These are the ul­ti­mate in large, long-lived nut trees. Pecans ( Carya illi­noinen­sis) can grow to 20m wide and live for 1000 years. They also make a fan­tas­tic ri­par­ian tree, lik­ing the shel­ter of a val­ley, ac­cess to con­stant mois­ture and they even en­joy­ing the oc­ca­sional flood, although they won’t tol­er­ate ex­tended wa­ter-log­ging. Young trees are frost ten­der but are late to burst into leaf in spring and very cold-hardy once es­tab­lished.

In their na­tive Mis­sis­sippi, where there are thou­sands of pe­can trees, there is all sorts of pollen float­ing around on the wind. Here in NZ, there are only small pock­ets of trees and nut pro­duc­tion is less re­li­able. Plant­ing a se­lec­tion of com­pat­i­ble grafted va­ri­eties in­creases your chances of pro­duc­ing a crop, and the more trees you plant, the bet­ter your odds.

They like am­ple min­er­als but NZ soils have plenty of nitro­gen for them – don’t give them com­post or any nitro­gen which will en­cour­age fast growth that will then break off in a big wind, some­thing NZ pecans are prone to do. 4 Hazels Hazels weren’t some­thing I ate un­til a friend gave me some. They were so good I planted 10 trees.

Once again, they are a wind-pol­li­nated species so you need at least two va­ri­eties to cross-pol­li­nate – I went with a range of va­ri­eties to max­imise pro­duc­tion.

They grow ex­ceed­ingly well in the cooler parts of New Zealand and can be left to form a multi-stemmed shrub or pruned to a sin­gle trunk. Sheep will keep the sideshoots un­der con­trol, but left to grow they can be turned into walk­ing sticks. They were also once used for mak­ing sheep hur­dles (move­able frames to cre­ate pens).

The trees grow to about 4m, and their stun­ning au­tumn colours make them a use­ful and at­trac­tive bound­ary tree. Seedlings are avail­able im­preg­nated with truf­fle spores and if you have the right con­di­tions, you’ll get yields of both crops.

The nut it­self is my favourite cook­ing nut, del­i­cate and flavour­some, but hav­ing some sort of crack­ing ma­chine is es­sen­tial to pro­cess­ing them in quan­tity. 5 Macadamias Macadamia trees are for those in frost-free zones. I have seen them grow­ing com­mer­cially in Nel­son and, af­ter sev­eral at­tempts, I have es­tab­lished one in the Waikato, but they are an Aus­tralian sub-trop­i­cal rain­for­est plant and pre­fer warm, shel­tered con­di­tions.

Once again, plant­ing dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties will in­crease pro­duc­tion, although macadamias are pol­li­nated by in­sects. Proteas are said to be a ben­e­fi­cial com­pan­ion plant for them and it’s a very at­trac­tive com­bi­na­tion.

Va­ri­eties ei­ther drop or hold their nuts. Drop­pers are good if you have clean, dry ground un­derneath and collect the nuts reg­u­larly; oth­er­wise go for ones you can pick.

Their ev­er­green fo­liage makes them a good screen and they can even be pruned into a hedge if de­sired. They can grow up to 10m tall, but are usu­ally pruned to keep them within easy pick­ing height.

Plant in spring, and har­vest the nuts in early win­ter. De­husk im­me­di­ately and dry un­til you can hear the nut rat­tling in the shell when you drop it onto con­crete. 6 Pine nuts I en­joy cook­ing with pine nuts. I also en­joy the look of Pi­nus pinea, the pine tree that pro­duces the pine cones that con­tain the nuts. But I don’t en­joy try­ing to ex­tract the nuts from the pinecone, crack­ing their shell and sep­a­rat­ing the shell from the nut. This is a lot of work and kiwi Diy­ers have used everything from ro­tary hoes in a bucket to rolling pins and a towel. How­ever the tree is longlived (150 years+) and very re­silient, han­dling dry con­di­tions, high winds and salt spray. This is an ev­er­green conifer, grow­ing to about 12m. Again, it can be pur­chased in­fected with Bianchetto truf­fle spores so you can try for an un­der­ground crop as well.

In op­ti­mum con­di­tions they should start bearing at about six years old (cones take three years to form) but my sin­gu­lar tree has been no­tice­ably re­luc­tant to produce. Even though they are the­o­ret­i­cally self­fer­tile, I have re­cently planted a sec­ond tree to see if that stim­u­lates pro­duc­tion. 7 Al­monds Al­monds are re­ally the in­ter­nal ker­nel of a va­ri­ety of peach and are sim­i­lar in growth habits to a peach ex­cept they need a sec­ond va­ri­ety as a pol­li­na­tor and live longer (about 70 years com­pared to the peach’s av­er­age of 10).

Hu­mid­ity can cause the fun­gal dis­eases of leaf curl and brown rot (although they don’t seem as sus­cep­ti­ble as most peaches) so in hu­mid ar­eas plant in a well-ven­ti­lated area or amongst your shel­ter belt.

Like peaches, they pre­fer good, fer­tile soil and don’t like ex­ces­sive damp­ness around their roots.

There is no rea­son why more al­monds can­not be grown in New Zealand and tri­als are cur­rently un­der­way in the Wairarapa, Waikato and Nel­son re­gions to iden­tify su­pe­rior va­ri­eties.

Trees will grow up to about six me­tres, and they are the first in the or­chard to wel­come spring, putting on a dis­play of blos­som in early Au­gust. 8 Peanuts A peanut is more pea than nut, and it doesn’t grow on a tree ei­ther. The peanut plant is a 30-60cm high leafy an­nual best grown in the veg­etable gar­den where it will fix nitro­gen and send out a stem (called a peg) which needs a loose, well-drained soil to drill into to produce the seed­pod.

They are com­mer­cially grown in Aus­tralia and will read­ily grow here in a hot sum­mer. They need full sun and 4-5 months of high tem­per­a­tures to ma­ture. Sim­ply soak a fresh peanut (you can use

raw, husked peanuts from the bulk bin at the su­per­mar­ket) for a cou­ple of hours and plant it as soon as the frosts have fin­ished.

Macadamia nuts.





Al­monds. Photo cour­tesy of Bob and Ann Phillips.



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