Spring 1986 no. 28
In this Issue...
World Class Opportunities in Tree Growing
Few things have changed faster over the last several decades than the eating habits of North
Americans. A couple of generations ago the dietary staples, especially in winter time, were bread,
potatoes, sauerkraut, salt pork and if you were lucky a few apples. Now people expect a wide
variety of choice in basic foodstuffs as well as a generous helping of extraordinary things, such as
kiwi fruit, avocados, artichoke hearts, papaya, mango, mandarin oranges, tangeloes, pecans,
almonds, macadamias , lychees, pistachios, pomegranate ... and the list grows longer every day.
People are demanding more variety in their diets and it seems to be working out well too as they
are living longer with each generation.
The December, 1985 edition of Smithsonian Magazine tells it all. Chris Rollins of Homestead,
Florida is working with 500 different kinds of new tropical fruit species with the objective of
introducing numbers of them into the commercial market as soon as they can be successfully
propagated in quantity. Then there is the case of Frieda Caplan of Los Angeles, California who
introduced the kiwi fruit to North America. Over a period of the last 24 years, Frieda has
introduced more than 200 new and different fruits and vegetables to the California market place.
Well! The foregoing says a lot about where agriculture is going in the next decade. How will
Ontario keep up to this type of competition? When you look at it, very few new crops have been
introduced into the Ontario scene in the last 20 years. Moreover, some previous major money
makers such as tobacco are in a state of irreversible decline ... with considerable prospects for
extinction. Furthermore, recent statistics show that the net income for the average Ontario farm is
less than $3,000.00 per year! Most Ontario farm families have to have an "outside" income in
order to live in the style to which they have become accustomed.
It is clear that Ontario requires some new crop opportunities if we are to compete successfully
with the rest of the agricultural world. New approaches. New Technology. New Attitudes. The
search for new crops must begin now.
A new crop which has promising potential for Ontario is the heartnut. Never heard of
the heartnut? Let me tell you about the key characteristics which may make the heartnut a world
class crop for Ontario:
Considering the name, the nutrition and the shape, how could the heartnut be anything less
than a sure winner?
- (a) The trees are vigorous, healthy and fast growers on medium to sandy type soils.
Hardiness to -40C makes this species adaptable to many areas throughout Ontario.
- (b) Heartnuts are precocious and productive and may start bearing in as little as five years
from seed. Production accelerates quickly each year and may reach ultimate productions of 5000
kilograms of nuts in the shell per hectare per year (approximately 3000 pounds per acre). This
equates to a gross annual income of $10,000 per hectare (approximately $3,000 per acre).
- (c) Heartnuts are a particularly temperate climate type of tree and perform very well in
Ontario. Interestingly they do not do well further south in the more traditional nut growing areas
such as Georgia, Texas and California. Therefore, if Ontario succeeds in developing this item, it
will have a crop of its own for which international competition will be minimal ... no small
- (d) The management of a heartnut orchard requires relatively little chemical spraying ... an
economic as well as environmental attraction.
- (e) The life expectancy of a heartnut tree is at least 60 -100 years.
- (f) Heartnuts as the name implies come in an interesting "valentine" heart shape. The nuts
dried and shelled yield about 35% by weight kernels which have a mild and generally appealing
flavour. The kernels are rich in nutrition and have a highly unsaturated oil content and therefore
should be considered as a "health food". Certainly heartnut could compete with some of the other
gourmet class nuts which by the way sell regularly at the Eaton's Centre in Toronto for as much
as $30.00 per ki1ogram of kernels!!
Some people refer to this one as a horticultural orphan ... some call it the Indiana banana or
the Michigan banana or even the custard apple. The California Rare Fruit Growers Association
devoted a whole yearbook to the discussion of the pawpaw in 1974 and the Californians would
be more than pleased to grow the pawpaw ... if it would do well for them. The truth is that the
pawpaw is a "semi-tropical" fruit which
does best in Carolinian climates like southern Ontario. Many horticulturists in the great lakes
area have urged that the pawpaw be promoted commercially. It's time that the job be done ... after
all if the Floridians can make a success of growing something referred to as an alligator pear
(avocado), the acceptance of the pawpaw by the public should be easy. The pawpaw has a
number of interesting features which will make it attractive to growers and consumers:
Future Crops for Import Substitution
- (a) Young trees come into bearing 3-4 years after
transplanting. The trees are vigorous, healthy, fast growing and bothered by few pests or diseases.
It is one of the few fruits which can be grown without any application of pesticides or fungicides!
The trees are very attractive with their dark green leaves which are up to 35 centimetres long.
They make excellent ornamental trees as well as fruit producers.
- (b) The fruit may be born in clusters of up to seven. It is no wonder that the species is
sometimes referred to as the Indiana banana as the developing fruit looks very much like a bunch
of bananas. Individual fruits may weigh as much as half a kilogram (a full pound)! The fruit
colour is a light lemon yellow at the peak of maturity. The flavour direct from the tree at maturity
is that of mild banana. If the fruit is sliced and marinated in a citrus juice such as lemon or lime,
it tastes like the finest of tropical pineapple ... without the stringy fibers. Also the flesh of the
pawpaw can be used to flavour breads, cakes and even pawpaw pie. I've tried several of these
preparations in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois and they are delicious.
- (c) A production rate of at least 7000 kilograms per hectare should be expected. Since the
breeding of pawpaw is at a beginning stage, the opportunity for some further very exciting
discoveries is promising.
- (d) The life expectancy of a pawpaw tree is at least 50 years.
- (e) The reward for developing the pawpaw to the commercial
stage in Ontario is that there is no current competition anywhere in the world. Even if adjacent
areas did try to copy a successful pattern, it would take them years to catch up ... and remember,
the pawpaw is only at home in climates similar to that of southern Ontario.
While the traditional crops of Ontario are experiencing a continuing state of decline in real
income, a considerable interest is developing for the introduction of new crops to substitute for
imported foodstuffs. The following are examples of items which could be grown to substitute for
materials currently imported into Canada. It is not suggested that Ontario growers could enter
into world class competition on these but some tidy profits are waiting for successful northern
- Sweet Chestnut
A considerable quantity of Italian sweet chestnut is imported into Canada each year. It
should be welcome news to chestnut hungry Canadians that a higher quality product can be
grown right here in Ontario. Chestnuts are a fast growing tree on medium to light soils ... often
bearing nuts in as little as 4 years from seed. Trees are healthy and vigorous and can be managed
with relatively little chemical spraying. Crops of up to 7000 kilograms per hectare (4000 pounds
per acre) per year may be anticipated. Chestnuts will be an attractive pursuit for those who are
- Carpathian (English) Walnuts
This is a food which is familiar to most everyone in Ontario. However, few realize that a
more flavourful type of nut can be grown right here in Ontario ... ie. much preferable to the
Californian type. Sufficient yields can be achieved to make this one an attractive commercial
The filbert (hazel) is a favourite food with most everyone. Fresh, Ontario grown filberts
cannot be beaten for flavour by any of the imported products. There are some good opportunities
for filbert growing along the lakeshore areas of Ontario right from Kingston around to
Collingwood and Midland. Yields sufficient to prove this one a money maker can be achieved.
Surprise! Yes, almonds can be grown in Ontario. Preliminary returns in the Niagara
Peninsula show that they are hardier and more regular bearing than peaches. In the 1985 season 9
bushels of almonds were harvested from 3 seven year old trees! It is clear that a lot more is
possible with almonds in Ontario than anyone ever thought.
- Black Walnut
This item is an important commercial crop in the United States both for timber and nuts.
Several times the Hammons Products Company has offered to ship collected black walnuts to
their Stockton, Missouri plant for cracking ... all that we have to do is collect the nuts to connect
with this opportunity. Then there is the matter of producing black walnut timber for furniture
wood and veneer ... one of the most valuable woods in the world. If you have several acres not
actively cropped, this could be the long term investment and hedge against inflation for which
you have been searching. Some of the big black walnuts logs sell for as much as $15,000 apiece!
Yes, pecans too can be grown in Ontario. They may be the preserve of the more
venturesome growers, but already crops of well filled nuts have been produced in the Niagara
Peninsula. The same can be done in all of the counties/regions adjacent to the Lake Erie north
shore from Niagara Falls to Windsor. There is no lack of commercial opportunity for the first
growers who produce pecans in quantity in Ontario.
Recently it has been shown that Ontario can produce well ripened persimmons to replace
that magnificently attractive oriental species which is imported from California. For the time
being this will be a "local" crop because the fruit is relatively soft when it is at the peak of
flavour. Nevertheless, it is an attractive item for those who like variety in their fruit consumption.
It's clear that some exciting opportunities are available to Ontario growers to produce tree crops
in world class competition or for import replacement. This ties into the Ontario Crop
Introduction and Expansion Program which was announced in the fall of 1985. This government
supported program will supply up to two-thirds of the costs of setting up new crops to a total of
$100,000 per crop. Eligible costs for the program include:
- Materials such as seed, fertilizer, fuel, chemicals and nursery stock.
- Labour costs
- Equipment rentals
- Other costs such as travel and computing
- Overhead costs to a minimum of 20% of direct costs
- In-kind contributions of the applicant such as land, labour and equipment may be considered
as part of the applicant's contributions to total costs.
This is a magnificent opportunity for tree growers to initiate new crops which will make a
significant contribution to the Ontario economy and also make tidy sums for Ontario growers.
These opportunities will be especially interesting to current or former tobacco growers of the
north shore of Lake Erie who have been searching for crop replacements.
All who are interested in discussing these prospects should come to the summer SONG
Meeting at the Grimo Nut Nursery, Lakeshore Road (between Firelanes 5 and 6, south side of
road) Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, telephone: 416-935-9773. The date is: Saturday, July 26,
1986 starting at 12:00 noon. Bring your picnic lunch and be prepared to discuss new economic
horizons for tree growing in Ontario.
Those who can't make the summer meeting will have another chance to get in on these growing
opportunities at the fall SONG meeting, Saturday, October 18, 1986 starting at 12:00 Noon
at the Horticultural Research Institute of Ontario, Vineland Station. Again bring your picnic
lunch and be prepared to discuss industry launching subjects such as: varietal selections,
production of nursery stock, growing technology for orchard production, harvesting methods,
processing production and last but not least the marketing of products.
From Brick Works to Demonstration Garden
Residents around the Metropolitan Toronto area may be familiar with the issue of converting a
40 acre brickworks property into an urban development project or a garden park. The brickworks
is located in the flood plain of the Don Valley ... no doubt a location similar to the George
Corsan nut tree planting which is located in the Mimico Creek flood plain. If you would like to
lend your support to this property becoming a demonstration garden and therefore in part, a nut
tree planting, get in touch with:
James B. Harvey, 33 Alphonse Crescent, Mississauga ON L5M 1A4
Letters to the Editor
I have four black walnut trees which are huge and probably more than 150 years old. If any of the
nut growers want to share in the trailer loads of nuts which are produced each fall, simply get in
touch with me.
H. Phelan, 45 Nancy Street, Bolton ON
I have planted a number of nut trees in a field which was summer followed the year before. The
nut tree plantings include 32 chestnut trees, 140 filberts, 20 Carpathian walnuts, 100 heartnuts
and 100 northern pecans. Also I'm trying some hardy kiwi fruit and so far they have been doing
quite well but it will be a few more years to see exactly what they will- do. My orchard has
created great interest in the local area since no other nut growing has been tried here.
Richard Walker, Tofield AB TOB 400
The five strains of northern pecan which were growing at the Ministry of Natural Resources
Nursery at Maple, Ontario have been transplanted (spring, 1984) to the grounds of Seneca
College in the area of Metropolitan Toronto.
H. Cedric Larsson, R.R.#1, Palgrave ON LON 1PO
Provided by SONG. Feel free to copy with a credit.