The Nuttery : Volume 21 Number 4 (2002)

In this Issue...

Hank Jones

As immediate past chair of ECSONG, I am responsible for preparing a slate of candidates for ECSONG Executive positions for the coming term 2003-2004. Here are the candidates I propose. Others may be nominated from the floor at the AGM.

Chair: Sandy Graham.
The Chair manages the affairs of ECSONG. Sandy has served as Chair this past term. He has long been the Coordinator of the FRP Nut Grove, ECSONG's first public nut grove, and a member of its Liaison committee since its inception. If elected, Sandy expects to continue to move ECSONG forward as Eastern Ontario's best source of local expert information on nut growing.

Vice-Chair: John Adams.
The Vice-Chair stands in when the Chair is unable to perform duties. John has served as Vice-Chair this past term. He is planning an extensive nut grove for his property, using the latest computer methods. If elected John will be supporting all ECSONG's efforts to promote nut growing in the region, and to extend public awareness.

Secretary: Jim Ronson.
The Secretary keeps ECSONG records and organizes Executive and Board meetings. Jim served as Secretary for this past term. He has been a member for many years, and has become the staunchest supporter of the new Lavant Shagbarks, an important area first brought to ECSONG's attention a number of years ago by Ted Cormier. If elected Jim will continue the tradition of excellent secretarial support, as well as working to bring the Lavant Shagbarks site in the hallowed circle of ECSONG's protected public nut groves.

Treasurer: Art Read.
The Treasurer keeps financial records, collects dues and pays bills. Art served as Treasurer this past term. He has been ECSONG treasurer for 15 years, continuously since 1987, and he has not misplaced even a single penny! If elected, Art will be pleased to continue minding the Treasury.

Councillor: Khristina Popadiouk.
Councillors offer advice and participate at will. Khristina served as Councillor this past term. She is ECSONG's youngest candidate ever for any office. She has proven herself by organizing and conducting the Kids Program, to enable young families to attend ECSONG activities. Should she be elected, she will be encouraging her fellow students to invest some of their academic Community Service hours in ECSONG.

Councillor: Dr.Sergei Ponomarenko.
Sergei has a long professional history with nut trees in both North America and Eurasia. He is specially interested in advancing the nut trees on the Fisher/NCC Driveway by the Experimental Farm. Should he be elected, Sergei would help ECSONG learn about soil taxonomy with respect to nut trees.

Thank you all for your generous offers to help ECSONG prosper in the coming year.

Volunteers Needed!

As you know, ECSONG runs entirely on volunteers. Two positions are currently open.

First, we need a coordinator for the Oak Valley Nut Grove. There is excellent infrastructure in place: mowing is organised, John Adams has a survey well in hand, South Nation Conservation supplies expertise and some funding, and there is always an effective crew of volunteers on field days. We need someone to keep it together.

Second, we need a coordinator of nut goodies and coffee for our Winter Meeting and AGM. We have a coffee machine and expenses are covered, but we really miss Kathleen Jones' network of nutty cooks!

Call/email Sandy if you are willing to take on either of these tasks.

A Butternut Taste Test
John Sankey

At the Winter Meeting 2003, I presented two samples of local butternuts. One had been hulled fresh (with considerable effort, as described in the last issue); the other after the hulls had dried so that they fell off with almost no effort. The late-hulled kernels had a noticeably darker surface than the early-hulled ones. The question was: can we get away with the easy route for hulling butternuts?

All willing participants were asked three questions:
- Can you taste any difference between light and dark nuts?
- If so, is one better than the other?
- Describe any difference:

Eleven people put their taste buds on the line:
- 9 said the dark had more flavour, 1 tasted no difference, 1 felt the dark was milder.
- 5 considered the light better, 4 insisted both were good, 2 preferred the dark.
- Those who preferred light termed the dark more bitter, those who preferred dark simply liked the taste.
All however had to search for the difference in taste - it was not marked.

I hulled the dark ones at the time of cracking, but the hulls were dry enough to fall off a month earlier. So, it seems as though letting the hulls dry just until they fall off, then removing them and continuing storage in the shell, is probably the optimum way to go. Next year!

Help Wanted!

Please contact these members directly if you can help them.

Lisa Sizeland-Ross and her husband Alpha Ross live at 6327 Purcell Rd Cornwall K6H 5R5. They have persuaded the Raisin River Conservation Authority to plant 1 ha of black walnut seedlings on their land. The Authority has no experience planting nut trees, and the Ross's would greatly appreciate any advice old hands can give them: Resource referrals, site assessment, species selection, tree spacing, inter-planting information, etc.

David & Karen Gage live north of Kingston. They would like to know any places that they could buy nut trees suitable for zone 5a. Contact them at P.O.Box 198, Verona ON K0H 2W0.

Jean & John Mitchell have moved to 21982 Irvine Rd., RR#2 Dalkeith ON K0B 1E0. They now have space for lots of nut trees and would like to start with butternut whips. Does anyone know of any sources?

Small Scale Nut Processing
Hank Jones

Cobjon Nutculture Services in Ottawa has been working to develop equipment for small scale nut producers and home use for over half a decade. An electric black walnut huller machine is now beyond prototyping. Two were sold last fall, both to customers in the US, small producers who noted the lack of equipment designed to meet their exact needs. In both cases the customer drove all the way here to pick up their machines! We are now working to productize the machine, called 'The Nut Huller'. We believe that the availability of this kind of equipment will encourage Canadians to begin appropriate scale commercial nut growing.

We also have been working on two manual kernel extractors for home use by folks who collect nuts around their neighbourhoods. Eastern Ontario has many black walnuts, butternuts, hickories etc. growing in town and out. Their fruit is usually raked up and trucked off to the landfill! One of our extractors is a nut cutter. Instead of cracking the nut shell, it cuts it open. Less mess. It works on all nuts, even coconuts! It can also crack nuts, so it is the best all purpose extractor around. We plan to make an instructional video soon to show how to handle every kind of nut with it.

However, if you prefer cracking, we have developed a strap cracker. It can rest on your knee wherever you might sit, or on a table. The strap keeps the shards from scattering, so it makes less mess also. (It cannot handle nuts as big coconuts however!)

We hope to launch regular commercial production of all of these products this spring. We are aiming to bring the turn-key huller in under $2000, and the cutter and cracker under $50 each.

The Lostwithiel Walnut Initiative: 2002 Report
Neil Thomas


One of the questions facing any prospective nut grower is: where to find suitable material? The descriptor 'suitable' is an inadequate one, because it presupposes that the prospective grower knows all there is to know about the future operation, and how to choose what will be best. This is not possible, especially in Eastern Ontario. A better question, then, is: where to find material to start with?

Because this is the question that has plagued me over the past few years, I decided to collect as many nut samples as I could, from a range of environments, and examine their basic physical characteristics. I started from a certain premise: better nuts have a higher kernel content. This is the message preached by Hammons of Missouri, and kernel content is one of the key variables in US walnut nut-improvement programs.

The objective of the study corresponds to a component of Project 2, "Producing the Processed Market Nut" in my long-term management plan.


Approximately 100 samples of nuts from single trees (50 nuts per tree) or groups of trees (50 nuts x tree number) were collected during October 2002 over a wide range of sites in Ontario, from Ottawa in the NE, to Niagara Parkway in the SW. Samples were hulled separately in a farm-built hulling machine and washed in water in a cement mixer. All washed samples were immersed in clean water, floaters removed, and the remaining nuts laid out on a screen. Group samples were air-dried and stored for future use. Three representative nuts were selected from single-tree samples, labelled, and air-dried at room temperature. The three-nut sample was then stored in open plastic bags. The remainder of each sample was packed moist in a small sack, placed in a large garbage can, and stored in a cool root cellar. These latter nuts will be used for spring planting in 2003.

Similar single-tree samples of several commercial black walnut cultivars were graciously provided by Ernie Grimo, Niagara-on-the-Lake. These samples provide the baseline against which to compare the wild material. Lines included were: Emma K, Throup, Fonthill, Snyder, Victoria, Bowser, and Bicentennial.

Labelled three-nut samples were analysed as follows:

  1. for each of all 87 single-tree samples, at random, in turn, one nut was taken from the storage bag;
  2. the length of the three main axes was measured with a vernier caliper;
  3. the nut was weighed on a scale to an accuracy of 0.01 g;
  4. the nut was cracked in a Master nutcracker, kernel separated from shell, and the kernel weighed.
  5. once one nut from each sample had been measured, cracked and separated, the procedure was repeated for the second nut of each sample, in different random order.
  6. the third nut of each sample was similarly measured, again in different random order.

The main parameters of nut volume, nut weight, kernel weight and percentage, and nut density were calculated.


The 87 single-tree samples showed a wide range in all parameters. Table 1 summarizes this information. In general, there were wild samples which exceeded the standards in all categories. The most obvious are the ranges for nut volume and nut weights, where wild types showed values approximately 50% higher than the highest standard. This is less obvious when examining data for kernel weight and kernel %, though there were still some wild types superior to the highest standard varieties included in the sample. In all cases there were wild types which showed lower values than the standards, though there were incidences of mould in some samples which reduced the values of the dynamic variables (weights, %s and density). This accounts for the extremely low values of the lowest end of the range for both kernel weight and kernel %.

Table 1 : Values of Main Parameters
Volume (cc)All32.99-10.8517.74
Nut Weight (g)All28.20-9.8115.46
Kernel Weight (g)All5.96-0.413.45
Kernel %All33.36-8.1622.55
Nut Density (g/cc)All0.98-0.650.87

A further analysis was conducted on those samples which could be considered as belonging to certain groups, either by location, or by background. Thus, there were four groups identified: 1) the Kingston group (n=29), 2) the Niagara Parkway group (n=24), 3) the Ottawa group (n=7), and 4) the Grimo group (n=7). These groups accounted for 66 of the 87 single-tree samples. While the remaining samples were collected at points similar to, or between, the main groups, they tended to be isolated trees. The groupings were made because of certain visual features evident in the nuts, e.g. the Kingston nuts tended to be large and prolate (lengthened at the poles), the Ottawa nuts tended to be oblate (flattened at the poles), the Niagara nuts tended to be small, and the Grimo nuts tended to be thin-shelled. Table 2 indicates the values for the main variables studied.

Table 2 : Mean values of main parameters for main nut groupings
GroupNut Volume (cc)Nut Wt(g) Kernel Wt (g)Kernel %
AllTop 25AllTop 25All Top 25AllTop 25
volumenweightn weightn%n
1. Kingston20.4023.831717.5921.06 153.764.871121.4325.835
2. Niagara15.7921.80313.8418.05 33.074.33422.6226.737
3. Ottawa17.6322.94215.1818.77 33.874.52425.5128.835
4. Grimo*16.1519.53113.9417.56 23.835.21227.3028.925

* n=7 for volume, and n=6 for the remaining variables in the case of the 66 nut samples. See note in text re Emma K.

Examining first the data for the 66 samples, Table 2 indicates that the Kingston nuts tended to have a volume 30% greater than the other groups, and a nut weight 15-20% greater. The Ottawa group showed volumes and weights slightly greater than the Niagara and Grimo groups, but a kernel weight consistent with the Kingston and Grimo groups. The Grimo group of commercial lines had a higher kernel % than all other groups. The Niagara group tended to underscore all other groups except in kernel %, where it was marginally higher than the Kingston group.

A separate analysis, not presented in tabular form here, which examined the frequency of occurrence of the 87 lines in the top 25 for each of the three principal categories of nut volume, nut weight and kernel %, found that 22 lines only expressed superiority in one trait, 19 lines expressed it in two traits, and 5 lines expressed it in all three. If a future research program were to decide to work with the lines expressing one or more superior trait within the top 25 lines for all three traits, the program would have to work with a total of 46 lines. Extending this to the 66 sample data, Table 2 also shows the frequency of occurrence and mean for each group in the top 25 samples for the four main parameters. Rankings within parameters all remain the same (except for kernel wt), though there are considerable increases in absolute values. Of main interest is the dominance of the Kingston group in nut volume and weight, a more than 50% presence of the Kingston group in the kernel wt category, but less than 25% presence of this group in the category of kernel %. As might be expected, the Grimo group was top in this latter category, but probably showed no statistical difference from the Ottawa group.

Of the Grimo group, Emma K was included in the analysis only in the category of nut volume. This line was the thinnest shelled of this group, and was significantly maltreated by the hulling machine. All indications were that it would have exceeded the remainder of the group in kernel %, but moulds developed in the sample nuts, and they were excluded from the analysis in the dynamic categories.


The starting premise was that better nuts have higher kernel content. This study has shown some local wild types are almost certainly as good in kernel % as the commercial lines analysed. Given their proven adaptation, these local lines would be of very high value to a local nut growing industry. Surprisingly, the significantly larger nuts of the Kingston group did not, on average, produce kernels much larger than those of the other wild groups, and were smaller than the standard kernels. This was almost certainly due to the inability of the trees to fill the complete nut - when cracked, almost all kernels in this group were found to have retreated from the shell walls. It will require several years of observations to determine whether this is a general condition, or was a consequence of local growing conditions in 2002. Across the geographic range sampled, growing conditions - soils, rainfall, etc - will have been extremely varied. This will have had a significant effect on the dynamic parameters.

Because of this variability, it would be extremely unwise to suggest one or two trees as the best source of nuts for local growers. Instead, it should be recognized that there are so many variables which will influence the productivity of a nut enterprise, that it is important at the outset to include a wide range of trees in the fledgling business. Not the least important, and perhaps easily understood in the context of the above analysis is the matter of the number of nuts per tree. A very high kernel % will not compensate for a low number of nuts per tree. It was not possible in this study to look at this factor. It may also be that extractability, i.e. the ease with which kernels can be extracted from the shell, will influence the final yield from a tree.

We can think of several equations which will be important to any prospective nut grower. Before considering these, it should be said that this analysis continues the position that there is inherently less economic risk in planting seed than in planting grafted stock. As none of the local lines is available as grafted stock, taking the latter route would still require an element of faith in exotic lines as being the ones that will work best in our region. The stated position obviously reduces early cash flow from nuts. But until a full risk analysis is available, it is possible that it also avoids an early cash drain imposed by Nature. The use of seed introduces genetic variability that was not present in the parent material studied (the germinating nut will exhibit 50% unknown paternal genetic traits). However, in the early years, this variability is probably welcome.


  1. Gross nut yield per tree = f(tree age, no nuts per tree, nut wt)
  2. Gross nut yield per hectare = f((1), no trees per hectare)
  3. Kernel % = f(shell thickness, genetic potential, growth conditions)
  4. Potential kernel yield per hectare = f((2), (3),extractability)
  5. Net kernel yield per hectare = f((4), extraction efficiency)
  6. Net marketable yield per hectare = f((5), %undiseased kernels, storage losses)
  7. Gross income from nuts = f (kg sold, price per kg)
  8. Net income from nuts = f((7), costs of management of all previous steps)

Where = f implies is a function of....

Next Steps

What has been presented here is an appreciation of the degree of genetic potential that exists in one specific yield component, which can generally be referred to as nut quality. This latter attribute is a compound outcome of certain parameters, each of which could influence the final value of a given tree to a nut grower. How this tree contributes to the economic benefit of our prospective nut grower then depends as much or more on the quality of the management our nut grower attaches to his or her enterprise. The above equations are the synthesis of all the component steps of that management.

The 46 genotypes that represent the 25 top lines in each of the three yield categories will be included in a 'grow-out' trial. This trial, to be planted at three locations in Leeds County in 2003, will eventually tell us whether the heritability of nut characteristics is sufficiently high that F1 seed competes in value with grafted parent material. This can be viewed from the following perspective: if the approximately 2,000 trees we have growing on our farm were from grafted material, at an average of $30 per tree, planting stock alone would have cost us $60,000. At the approximate $0.10 which each tree cost, the in-ground value of this material is only $200. If the nut quality of this stand comes anywhere near meeting the average values of the nuts in the present study, assuming that the initial and subsequent 'fixed' costs of management are the same for both type of tree, it is probable that the net return of our plain stock will far outstrip what a grafted stand would have given. With reasonable training and field management, it is also likely that a tree grown from a nut will provide a better harvest log than a tree grown from a graft.

A few final words: deriving a portion of one's income from nut production is subject to risk. Not the least of this risk is the multi-year nature of nut production, and the need to view the stand of nut trees from an entirely different viewpoint than that of an annual crop. A black walnut tree is a perennial. It will remember, a bit like an elephant, all the good and bad management to which it was subjected; what it will return to the grower will be a result of the compounded effects of this management within the context of the environment in which it was grown. No one can possibly foresee the next 50-75 years and what they will bring to any agricultural or agroforestry enterprise. The likelihood that hardwood-planted land will continue to accrue in value is high. Nuts offer the original owner a short-to-medium term cash flow if a market niche can be developed. Both of these together offer what we think of as an NRRSP, where N stands for Natural. There isn't much out there in terms of hard fact which will help you get your NRRSP going, especially as the marketing component is currently completely lacking. However, stick with us over the coming years, and perhaps we can turn that around.

Provided by ECSONG. Feel free to copy with a credit.