How much $$$ can you make with chestnuts and hazelnuts?
Now into some detail about economic reasons to plant chestnuts and hazelnuts.
Personally, my own reasons for planting tree crops are multiple. I want the best, most nutrient dense, and pesticide-free food for my family. I want to change land from annual tillage to perennial crops that don’t have to be planted every year so we can keep nutrients in the ground - instead of flowing down the creek or into the atmosphere. I want to build organic matter, and promote soils that behave well with both drought and seasonal flood conditions.
But there is also the economic reality of making money for my family to buy things I can’t or don’t wish to grow or make myself.
So, without further ado, here are some numbers I figured out that should give you an idea of how lucrative nut crops can be.
At a local market in St. Thomas, Ontario, I picked up a bunch of locally-grown chestnuts for $5/lb for raw, in shell. Assuming a normal 22lb annual yield on a ten year old tree = $110 per tree. And the trees just keep growing. Some chestnuts have produced up to 220lbs on one tree in one season! (Those figures are from Wikipedia.)
If your field is certified organic, or you took the nuts to a higher paying centre like Toronto, you could be looking at an even higher profit. If you want to get into peeling them yourself, you can get prices like $21.25/lb - a price I saw on Amazon.ca.
Chestnuts will be reliably baring around year 7, but you can get lighter crops by year 3-4 in some cases. I’ll send more information in a future newsletter on how to care for them while you’re waiting (hint - not too labour intensive).
Before moving on to hazelnuts, I’ll also mention that the example above that had chestnuts for $5/lb raw in-shell was harvested by hand-picking from the ground. They were making that work, and I've done that before for black walnuts.
Other ways to harvest include hand nut-rollers, and nut-roller attachments for lawn tractors. With a hand nut-roller, you don’t have to worry about what you plant under the tree - I’ll be putting in berries, herbs and more. With the lawn tractor method, you drive around under the tree when most of the nuts have fallen, and gather them all that way - so it’s most suited to if you’re going to have grass under the trees. That said, if you timed it right, and your herbs and berries were done for the season before the chestnuts had dropped, you could mow back everything with a lawnmower first, then use a nut-roller after that.
I looked up the price of hazelnuts on amazon.ca, and found them for $10/lb in shell. At a low-end estimate of 2lbs of nuts per tree, that’s $20 per bush per year, and that starts sooner than chestnuts, likely around year 3 or 5. Hazelnut bushes also take up less space than chestnuts (about 8’x8’, but can be less or more depending on how you prune them), and are easier to propagate from cuttings. Every year you can be separating off suckers from the base, layering branches, and taking cuttings and putting them in the soil, or in soilless mediums, and multiplying your future trees.
By the way - harvest with hazels is either by hand picking off the bushes, or with straddle harvesters. There are not too many people using straddle harvesters in Ontario currently, but if you design your plantings for using them some day, maybe you could go in with some local friends to buy one? They can be modified to do blueberries and saskatoon berries too.
If you have a hard time selling your hazelnuts (which you shouldn’t), you can always make your own Nutella… I prefer this sugar-free version http://minimalistbaker.com/4-ingredient-nutella-vegan-gf/
By the way - there’s also this more rare chestnut based sweet called puree de marron - look that up. It sounds amazing. I ended up using an ancient ad for the stuff for our chestnut creature ('Nutty Buddy') image now appearing on our homepage.
And that leads to other uses for these nuts, the more unusual ones that have major niches in the future of local perennial food:
Oil (hazel - great on salads)
Foams and creams (used in fine restaurants)
Delicious breakfast ‘porridge’ (chestnuts and hazels)
Stuffing (famously chestnut, but I’ve used both)
Smoothies (for protein and fat - and flavour)
Gluten-free noodles from chestnuts
Hazelnut tofu (not flavouring, but instead of soy)
Then there are old stand-bys:
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Hazelnuts in mixed nuts around the holidays (or anytime) as a snack
Baked in cookies and other sweets
In the centre of a ferrero rocher-style candy
Sold yet? There will be one last reminder coming up, but don't wait for that…last year we completely sold out of almost all our fruit trees and bulk nut trees.
Buy bulk trees now
If you have questions or want to talk to me about your nut tree/forest garden project for advice, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m not going to up-sell you or try to sell you trees if I don’t think your project is ready - usually the best way to start a project is with a lot of observation. Even though this sale is a really good deal, it might be better for you to wait a year. I can’t guarantee we’ll have a sale this good in the future, but there’s nothing worse than getting a bunch of trees, then not having something to do with them. (Actually - I’ll write about that in a coming newsletter, and give ideas for what to do in that situation - I’ve been there!)
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