Cultivate Chestnuts and Harvest Hazelnuts

Gather all the information you’ll need to grow bountiful chestnut and hazelnut trees on your property and use them in your kitchen.

| July/August 2019

Photo by Getty Images/Foxys_forest_manufacture

Hazelnuts and chestnuts are beautifully complementary: Chestnuts produce a carbohydrate-rich nut, while hazels are high in fat and protein. Chestnuts are full-sized trees, while hazels are modest shrubs. There are cultivars of each that are adapted to a wide range of climates. They’re both hardy and vigorous, and together they yield an abundance of food.

I gathered key points about cultivating these nuts in part from a fascinating talk at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York given by Akiva Silver, owner of Twisted Tree Farm, and Brian Caldwell, a farmer and researcher at Cornell University. Here’s what you need to know to grow your own hazelnuts and chestnuts.

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Hearty Hazels

There are species of hazelnut trees that can grow anywhere from subtropical Asia all the way to northern Canada. Though some hazels mature to the size of proper trees, most are multi-stemmed shrubs whose size you can control by pruning. Their small size and high level of production makes them a perfect choice for gardeners, homesteaders, and farmers alike.

But getting the right plant is critical. Almost all commercially grown hazelnuts — those you’ll find in the grocery store or in confections — come from the common, or European, hazel (Corylus avellana). While this may be a good option for large hazelnut producers, its particular requirements mean it isn’t suitable for most parts of North America. The European hazel is larger than many other hazels, easily reaching 20 feet in height. Further, it’s not resistant to Eastern filbert blight, a disease found throughout the United States.

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