SONG News Spring 1991 no. 38
In this Issue...

President's Message

My adventure into nut culture began with a meeting with Doug Campbell at Campberry Farm. I had a romantic notion to recreate my boyhood chestnut gathering by planting a chestnut tree at my farm near Scotland, Ontario. On leaving Campberry Farm, I had gone completely "Nuts", having purchased 200 trees and membership in SONG.

My membership in SONG has provided me with many friendships, much encouragement and a wealth of valuable information on nut culture. Today, I have 10 acres devoted to nut trees, predominantly sweet chestnuts from which I harvested a small crop of 20 pounds in the fall of I990.

Since my introduction to nut growing, four years ago, my explorations have taken me from local back gardens to nut groves in the USA and UK Also, I'm a member of the Northern Nut Growers Association. It has been an interesting experience and there is still a lifetime of learning ahead. I have been reading past issues of the SONG newsletter which records 19 years of dedication and endeavour in promoting nut culture in Ontario. I am impressed.

The objectives of SONG which were formulated at the inaugural meeting in October, 1972, are still valid today and have proven to be a sound foundation for the Society. These objectives are:

  1. To promote interest in nut-bearing plants, their products and their culture.
  2. To promote scientific research in the breeding and culture of nut bearing plants suited to Ontario conditions.
  3. To encourage planting of improved varieties in gardens and orchards, on farms and public lands.
  4. To disseminate information on propagation techniques and cultural practices.
  5. To provide opportunities for closer association among nut growers residing in Ontario.

In I992, we will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of SONG. This is a milestone in our history and I welcome suggestions to mark this special occasion.

Ken Weston, President, SONG

The End of The Corsan Story

Kathryn Lamb spoke on George Hebden Corsan at the 80th annual meeting of the Northern Nut Growers' Association at Brock University, St. Catharines, on August 8, 1989, At the time that her previous articles on Corsan ran in SONG News (Fall 1976, Spring 1977 and Fall 1978) she was unable to verify when and how his death occurred. The conclusion was presented in her talk.

Canada's Nut Man Killed in Florida

Miami, Jan. 31, 1952: George Hebden Corsan of Toronto, the man who rose from fruit peddler to fame as Canada's nut man, died today in hospital of injuries suffered when he was knocked down by a car. He was in his 95th year, an age he credited to a life of strict vegetarianism.

Highway Patrolman M. J. Wilder said Corsan, who amazed his doctor by surviving a broken neck last year, was struck at Shark Key Viaduct on the overseas highway.

At his death bed was his third wife, Lillian Armstrong, 60 year old retired school teacher whom he married here a year ago.

Corsan divided his time between his nut farm, Echo Valley, Islington, Ontario, and a citrus plantation in South Miami.

Corsan was bom near Niagara Falls, N.Y., in 1857, the son of a banker. His maternal grandfather was Canon Hebden of the Church of England in Hamilton, where the family moved when he was a boy. He ran away from home at age 14 and worked as a farm hand until his early 20s. During this period he developed a dislike for meat and dairy products.

While studying at St.Louis (Missouri) Hygienic College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1890, he was bitten by a copperhead snake and nearly died. He returned to Toronto where he became a fruit peddler and champion swimmer. He joined the Northern Nut Growers' Association in 1912 and was a member, except fora period between 1930-35, until his death. He often spoke of his work at the conventions.

Corsan became an indefatigable writer on the subjects of health, physical fitness and vegetarianism (Saturday Evening Post, Forest and Stream, Family Herald and Weekly Star, Toronto Globe) and lectured widely on the same subjects. He was the chief crusader in the fight to make Canadians nut conscious.

His primary occupation was growing nuts and fruits. On his 25 acres in Islington he cultivated 15 species of nuts and nearly 400 varieties. In Florida he had five acres of avocados, coconuts, bananas and macademia nuts. Following cremation his ashes will be spread in Islington and South Miami.

He is survived by two daughters and four sons: Mrs. Olive Anthes, Florida; Mrs. Gordon Hoffmann, Aurora, Ontario; Capt. George Corsan Jr., Toronto; H. H. Corsan, Hillsdale, Michigan; Wilfred H. Corsan, Detroit, Michigan, and E. E. Corsan, Islington, Ontario.
Kathryn Lamb.

Planting and Caring for Nut Trees

At the February meeting of the Commercial Association of Nut Growers of Ontario (CANGO) John Gardner and Doug Campbell gave talks on starting a nut grove and caring for nut trees in a way which will maximize production. Although they were speaking about commercial-sized plantings their advice is equally applicable to small plantings. The following is a summary of the advice they gave.

It is important to choose a good site for your nut grove. Ideally the site should have good soil, proper water drainage, wind protection and good air drainage. Frost pockets should be avoided. If these conditions are not present on your land, you can do your best to improve what you have. Soil can be improved by adding organic matter, fertilizer, and by balancing the pH. Most nut trees do best in a soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0, with chestnuts doing best at 5.5 to 6.0. If poor water drainage is a problem a tiling system should be put in. If the area is exposed to strong winds, fast growing trees can be planted as a windbreak.

It is important to choose types of trees which are suited to your conditions. For example, chestnuts like a coarse-textured, well drained soil which is slightly acidic. They are unlikely to do well in a heavy, alkaline, poorly drained clay.

Draw up a planting plan. There are many spacings to choose from. One possibility is to make your rows 20 feet apart, with trees in each row placed at 10 foot intervals. Remember that many nut trees need others of its kind around for cross-pollination.

The best time to plant is in the spring. Bare rooted trees should be planted as soon as possible. Their roots should be kept moist, but not soggy, and should not be exposed to the sun or the air.

Holes can be dug by hand, or if you are planting a number of trees, with a power driven auger. The hole should be deep and wide enough that the root system can be spread out. If using an auger in a heavy soil, the sides of the holes may become polished. It is important that you break up these sides with a shovel or else the tree roots will not be able to penetrate these hard sides in the future. When the hole is two-thirds filled in, the tree should be watered thoroughly. It is very important that there is a good connection between the roots and the soil, without a lot of air spaces. After planting, the tree should be staked so that it will not be whipped around by the wind.

The area in between your trees can be planted in crops for a few years. Make sure that these do not shade out or compete with the nut trees. You can also plant this area with a grass sod. This prevents erosion, holds water, is clean to walk on and provides a good surface for equipment. A recommended mixture is I part white clover, 6 parts creeping red fescue, 6 parts dwarf perennial rye grass. Avoid heavy plantings of legumes as they can harbour large populations of leaf hoppers and tree hopper insect pests.

It is very important to pay regular attention to your trees. This way water and fertilizer needs can be met quickly and problems with insects, diseases, browsers and nut predators can be dealt with before they become a major problem.

If trees have to compete with weeds or grass their growth will suffer and it will be longer until you start harvesting nuts. Remove competition to begin with. Ideally, no vegetation should grow within .75 m (3 ft) of the trunk. Mulches are very helpful in controlling weeds. They have an additional advantage of maintaining a consistent moisture level and moderating soil temperature. Substances which can be used as mulch include hay, straw and horticultural cloth covered with pea gravel. If you are using an organic mulch, pull it back from the trunk in winter to help avoid problems with rodents.

Trees must be protected against deer, rodents, groundhogs and rabbits. Tree guards of various types can be used. If using a tree guard made of a solid material (as opposed to wire mesh) it is important to check under the guard every couple of months. A micro-climate is set up which is very favourable to bark rotting organisms.

Newly planted trees must be given regular watering fortheirfirst couple of years. It is also important to provide sufficient water for mature trees. Poor watering slows down growth, increases the length of time until harvesting the first nuts and reduces nut quality and quantity. Mulching helps conserve moisture and is especially beneficial in sandy soils.

Proper fertilization is essential for healthy, rapid tree growth. It has a great influence on how soon you will harvest the first nuts. Inspect yourtrees regularly - leaves should be dark green and tree growth should be steady. If the leaves are pale green, have yellow, brown or dead spots, or if tree growth is slow or the tree stunted, you can suspect that there is a problem with fertility. It may be that the soil is deficient in certain nutrients or that they are unavailable because of poor drainage or unbalanced pH. A pH of 6.0 to 7.0 is not only best for tree growth, but nutrients are most readily available within that range. If applications of fertilizer do not improve yourtrees, then it is best to consult with an expert.

It is important to establish performance standards for your trees. Take advantage of field trips to established orchards or nurseries to see what to expect in the way of yearly growth for the different types of trees. If you are not getting these growth rates consult with an experienced grower to find out what needs to be improved in your growing situation. Also set yourself standards for production. With hazels, filberts, almonds and chestnuts, you should be getting some production in the third year. Walnuts and heartnuts should produce within 5 to 7 years, and pecans and hickories within 8 or 9. Again, if your trees are not meeting these standards, consult with an experienced grower.

If you give your trees the proper care you will be rewarded with a bountiful harvest of delicious, nutritious nuts.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food has published a booklet Nut Culture in Ontario (publication #494). This is available free from OMAF.
Heather Apple.

Tropical Nuts Help Save The Rainforest (And Elephants Too!)

High ideals are wonderful, but often it's economic considerations that actually produce results. A growing number of conservation organizations have realized that the greatest hope for saving the rain forest lies in showing that rain forests are more valuable standing than cut for lumber. These organizations are working to increase the production of over 2,000 rain forest products such as nuts, medicine, oils and resins, furniture and baskets.

Cultural Survival Enterprises (CSE) has opened a $100,000 nut-processing plant in Brazil. In January, orders for nuts already stood at $2.6 million, with a total sales of $4.5 million expected for the year. CSE's biggest product is Rainforest Crunch, a peanut-brittle-like confection filled with Brazil nuts and cashews. It is sold as candy and used in Ben and Jerry's Rainforest Crunch Ice Cream.

In Ecuador, villagers are busy picking togua nuts. These golf-ball-sized, rock-hard nuts are cut into creamy-white buttons, figurines and jewelry. They offer a substitute for ivory which is now banned from international trade due to the slaughter of elephants for their tusks. Two U.S. clothing companies are buying hundreds of thousands of buttons made from togua nuts. As one clothing manufacturer remarked, "It's one thing to wear a button that says xSave the Earth', and another thing to wear a button that does save the earth".
Heather Apple.

The Cook's Corner
Nut Pastry
Marion Grimo says that this nut pastry is ideal for those who have difficulty rolling out pastry in one piece. It's a delicious and tender pastry that doesn't puff up excessively. It's good with any filling but especially nice with a lemon filling.

1 cup {250 mL) flour
1/2 cup (125 ml) cold butter
1/4 cup (50 ml) brown sugar
2 Tbsp (30 ml) milk
1/4 cup (50 ml) finely chopped pecans or black walnuts
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla

Combine the flour, brown sugar and nuts. Cut the butter into pieces, then cut it with two knives, a food processor or a pastry blender into the flour mixture until coarse pieces form. Add the milk and vanilla to the mixture and combine until just blended. Pat into a 9 or 10 inch (23 to 25 cm) pie plate and crimp the edges for an attractive design.


Pine nuts are an expensive item in specialty food stores and they are seldom fresh. Grow your own pine nuts (Korean nut pines are hardy to zone 3), plant some basil and enjoy this tasty pesto sauce.

3 cups (750 ml) loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup (125 ml) chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp (5 ml) chopped fresh oregano
3 large cloves of garlic
1/2 cup (125 ml) pine nuts (almonds or pecans can be substituted)
I cup (250 ml) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp (2 ml) freshly ground pepper
salt to taste
1/2 to 2/3 cups (125 to 150 ml) olive oil

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender, adding enough olive oil to make a thick, smooth paste. This is delicious mixed into fresh pasta.

Please Share Your Nut Recipes

Do you have some favourite nut recipes that you would like to share with others? SONG is working on a nut cookbook which we hope to publish soon. There is a particular need for nondessert recipes. Please send your nut recipes to Marion Grimo, R.R.3, Lakeshore Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, LOS IJO.

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