A Very Successful Fall Tour at The McCullys
Our farm is located in Kent County near Chatham, and consists of a well drained sandy loam soil with a neutral Ph. except along a creek flood plain where the soil is more of a clay loam. The first nut trees were planted in 1989 as an experiment, then in 1990,1991 and 1992 we planted the majority of the trees we now have. We have approximately 7 acres of chestnuts, 1.5 acres of Hazelnuts,2.5 acres of Heartnuts,4 acres of Pecans (along the creek flood plain), and 2 acres of Carpathian walnuts being a mixture of both grafted and seedling trees.
We began harvesting and selling Chestnuts and Hazelnuts in 1995 with the chestnuts being our major nut crop to date.We started selling all of our crop directly from the farm gate, and now we sell half at the farm and the rest to a fruit and vegetable retailer. Chestnut markets have been good every year mainly because of the fresh quality, and Ontario chestnuts arrive on the market a few weeks before the imported ones. Size is important, however good quality can sell the small ones especially early in the season. Chestnuts are harvested from the ground every other day, graded, and put immediately into cold storage. They are stored in milk crates just above freezing in a forced air cooler under high humidity until sold. We grade the Chestnuts by size in a sizing drum (large, medium and small), and also remove any defective nuts.
Hazelnuts are harvested from the ground. Once or twice during the season they are cleaned, washed and bagged. Most are sold directly from the farm, and we dry very few since many people like then fresh from the tree.
On October 4 we hosted the fall SONG meeting at our farm. The weather was excellent, and approximately 60 people attended.The meeting got underway at noon with the Business meeting and a brief background of our farm. We were also fortunate to have Dianne Mariconda as a guest, who gave a talk on her recent visit to Italy, and also shared several of her chestnut recipes with us. Dianne also prepared a couple of delicious chestnut dishes for us to sample.
Following this ,a walking tour of our orchard started. The chestnut harvest was just beginning ,with the hazelnut and heartnut harvest well under way. Following the tours, everyone was welcome to view our processing and storage equipment. A chestnut roast followed the tours, along with the showing of videos on pruning and mechanical harvesting.
It was an enjoyable day for us and we hope everyone who attended also enjoyed themselves. Thanks also to Doug Campbell who arrived early and stayed late helping with preparations and cleanup.
Edible Nut Pines
Charles & Lina Rhora
The following information is based on our experiments, our notes and records that we have kept over the years. We hope this information is beneficial to some of you, and should save many years of your time while growing these rare and unusual nut trees. We will continue to seek seed sources similar to our hardiness zone or better.
Our original planting of nut pines were from seed obtained from Europe, arid Asia. Specifically from the Countries of Denmark, Sweden, Russia (Formerly USSR), Mongolia, Eastern Siberia, and North Korea. We had picked these countries because we were looking for the most hardiest of the nut pines to grow here. The seeds obtained were from areas classified as Zones 1 and 2.
Starting in 1975, we corresponded with many individuals, experimental stations, and arboretums. Over the next five years we were able to obtain our requirements from these sources. The seeds we obtained ranged from a few ounces upwards to 15 pounds. They were locally collected from individual trees growing in their natural terrain. Most were at highest altitude which exposed them to extreme weather conditions.
After the seeds were received, they were stored very carefully at controlled temperatures. Later they were given the proper stratifications. All of the seeds from our sources required two different types of stratification to ensure proper germination.
We prepare the seed beds the year before the planting, working the inoculant into the soil so the germinated seedling will be able to use it immediately. A 1/4 inch wire mesh is made to cover the seed bed with it being buried 4 inches in the ground. Enough height above the seed bed is allowed for the seedlings to grow for one year. This is very essential as protection from birds and rodents which will destroy the seeds or seedlings as they germinate.
The seeds are planted in the first week of June and in two weeks the first seeds were observed germinating. This continued for another two weeks. The final germination count varied from 85 to 90 percent.
The seed bed was covered with partial shade to prevent the heat of the sun burning the seedlings off for the next four weeks. After this time had elapsed the shading was removed and no damage occurred to the seedlings.
At first the seedlings looked very healthy, but they did not grow. Soon some started to turn brown and a few died, the rest remained at the same height as they were when they germinated.
We looked for help from various sources, but were surprised that in North America no one could offer us any help, as apparently few had tried to grow these two species.
We remembered some correspondence from a retired chemist from one of the European Countries who had, as a hobby grown some of the Korean pine. He had mentioned that by adding a certain natural type of material to the soil would benefit the trees. We immediately gathered some of this material and sprinkled them over the seedlings, this showed immediate results in the seedlings returned to their natural bluish colour and actually put on some growth (approx 1/8" growth) for the first year. This was a start, but we knew that if we were going to bring this experiment to a successful conclusion, more work had to be done in this area.
Upon further studies, we found that all pine trees benefit from an inoculant (Mycorrhizal fungi). For instance the Korean, Siberian, Swiss stone, and Siberian stone pine, the seed will germinate, but will not survive without this special inoculant.
Over the next 7 years, we experimented with natural ingredients and adding these to the other natural ingredient and we were able to obtain growths from 10 to 18 inches each year.
From this start we now have developed inoculants that are essential, or will greatly help the edible nut pines to grow at their maximum growth rate and the trees will produce cones and nuts at a much earlier age than had previously been reported. Also we found that each species required different ingredients in their inoculent.
Weeding of the seed bed must be carried out by hand. Herbicides are not used as they will destroy the fungi. The protective wire mesh cover is removed and the necessary maintenance is carried out. Then the cover is returned. In the third week of August this same procedure is carried out again for the last time for this season. The weeds are allowed to grow as the seedlings are very shallow rooted and this helps in preventing frost heaving. In early December the seedlings are also given a mulch of pine needles as an added precaution and the protective wire mesh is returned to cover the seedlings for the winter.
The wire mesh protective cover remains over the seed bed until the following year as added protection through the winter and then removed in the month of June. All weeding is still carried out manually. Seedlings remain in the seedbed until the start of the third year, then they are transplanted as lined out seedlings. We space the trees one foot between the trees in the row. The inoculant is placed around the roots at the time of transplanting. They are allowed to grow here for 2 years before they are transplanted to their permanent location.
The Korean pine to date, is the only pine that has had a crop. One tree started bearing cones at the age of eight years from seed. This was unusual, as we found that they take an average of 10 years before they start to bear. They produce male cone pollen as early as 5 years, but the female cone does not start until they reach the average age. The cones at first are borne only on the main leader in groups of 3 to 5 cones. The cones take two years to mature, so the first year the cones develop to the size of about 1 inch in diameter. In the second year, the cones start to grow and fill the cones very rapidly. They are full size by ' the end of June, but the seeds continue to develop through the summer and ripen by mid October to the first week of November. They will withstand frosts as they continue to ripen. At first we thought we would only have a crop every 2nd year, but the following spring, we found first cones starting on trees that had produced cones from last year. Thus we harvest a crop every year from these trees. Each year they produce more cones till finally when they reach the age of approximately 17 years, they then start to produce cones on lateral branches. At approximately 20 years of age they should be producing a quarter bushel of cones. This translates to approximately 3 to 4 pounds of nuts.
The nuts produced per cones varies. We had one cone that produced 165 nuts per cone, but on the average, they produce approximately 90 nuts to a cone.
Up until now we hand harvest the cones. The cones are covered with a very sticky resin. One should wear gloves when harvesting the cones. The cones ripen in middle October to first week of November, and are easily recognized when they are ready for harvest. While maturing they are a medium green, but upon ripening they turn? to a brown colour. One can easily tell when they are ripe. Just grasp the cone and give it a light twist and if it is ripe it will separate from the tree.
The cones are air dried for 3 to 5 days. In this period the pitch or resin dries, but most importantly the cones open and by shaking it the nuts fall free from the cone. Some nuts need a little coaching but they are quite readily removed.
As the trees mature, it is our intention to use a modified cherry tree shaker to harvest the cones. Also the cones would be easily dried in a kiln as the harvest grows in size.
All of our crop to date is sold from our farm. Once the general public learned that we had fresh pine nuts, we could nut keep up with the demand. Each year we have a list, the first person contacting us, is of course at the top, and has first choice. After our supply are depleted, we notify the remaining customers, and their names are put on next years list. We also set aside a good portion of the nut seeds for our own use in our nursery. We receive $15.00 per pound for eating purposes, and those that are sold as nut seeds to our mail order customers we receive from $18.00 to $24.00 for planting purposes. The reason for the difference in prices is because nuts for seed require more care in their handling and storage.
We also have a demand for the cones, in fact, the cones are in as much of a demand as the pine nuts. The resin on the cones last for up to 3 years, even although it is dry, and the aroma is one of the most pleasant fragrances. We sell all our cones to craft stores for this reason. The demand is so high, that we have a waiting list up to 3 years for back orders.
A few years ago there was an article on edible nut pines in a well known magazine distributed in North America and after the write up, we were overwhelmed by the request for nuts. We received orders or requests from large chain restaurants for up to 500 pounds of nuts in the shell every month. Unfortunately we had to decline because we could not meet these demands, nor will we be able to for several years.
As our harvest increases, it is our intention to invest in a cracking machine that will enable us to start selling the kernels, candied nuts, etc. Such machines are now available at a reasonable cost.
To date, we have not encountered at our location any pests, or diseases that have affected these trees. We carefully inspect the orchard at least once a week.
In our early experiments, as mentioned above, we have concentrated on reproducing the pines by seed only. We had tried several grafted seedlings in this trial period, but as time progressed we realized that the grafting method was not profitable. We also had tried several seedlings grafted onto the rootstock of the Eastern White pine, the trees grew reasonably well, but at the production stage, they only produced filled nuts in the 50 to 60 percent range.
We tried several other grafted trees of other varieties, but the results were so disappointing - e. g. stunted growth, graft failure, etc.
We had of course tried these experiments because others had suggested that this might eliminate the need for the inoculant, but these experiments proved out our first thoughts, that these trees will do ,better on their own roots. Our seedlings were producing filled nuts ' between 90 and 95 percent, while those grafted on the Eastern white pine were only produced a lower percentage of filled nuts. Also the first production of nuts from our seedlings, showed that the nuts were at least 1/3 larger in size than what we had originally planted. We have test trees planted from the 2nd generation of seed, and in a few years we eagerly await what type of seed they will produce, and the percentage of filled nuts. Before leaving the subject of reproducing trees from grafting, we would like to mention that we have selected some superior trees from our original planting of trees based on their production of cones, filled nuts, and lastly on their ornamental value for landscaping. Several trees produce needles that are a very bluish colour (similar to some named Colorado Blue Spruce) and they retain this colour all year round. We will be releasing some of these in the near future as named cultivars. We will be grafting these onto Korean pine rootstock.
We have several acres planted out to orchards of many of the varieties of edible nut pines. In monetary return per acre on these trees, it is best to plant the trees in rows twenty feet wide with a spacing of 10 feet between trees in the row. By using this spacing we have found that they produce the most return per acre, especially during their early producing age to obtain the most nuts. After they reach the age of between 20 to 25 years, they tend to start to crowd in the row. At this time we use a tree spade and remove every other tree to a new location. We are able to double the size of the orchard, and the trees moved in this manner will only lose one year's production. Also this gives us the final spacing of twenty feet between the trees in the row of our orchard. The trees easily re-establish themselves, as they are shallow rooted. If the use of a tree spade will not be feasible, then one would have to cull every other tree out of the row in the orchard to prevent overcrowding.
We use several methods to protect the trees and crop from rodents. After the seedlings are transferred from the nursery to lined out seedlings, we apply in the fall a treated mouse bait containing Zinc phosphide. This bait is coated with wax, and will protect the trees for one year from mice. Where rabbits and deer are a problem we recommend a tree guard.
Once the trees start producing cones and nuts, squirrels, chipmunks can be a problem. Although to date we have not had any problems with these, due to the fact that we have many owls, hawks, and other natural predators which keep these away from our trees. If there were a problem with Squirrels, etc, we recommend a planting of another crop, (possibly hazelnuts or filberts) a good distance from the pines to attract there attention away from the pine nuts. Another option is to live trap these pests.
In later years, after we had obtained the most hardy seed available, we obtained some seed from Japan and South Korea of the Korean Pine, but we found after several growing seasons that they were only hardy to Zone 4, although we still have these growing, we do not sell or recommend these as they produce a much smaller pine nut, slower growing, and the time of there first crop is much longer.
In conclusion, although the Korean pine is the only one producing pine nuts, due to the difficulties in obtaining the most cold hardy seeds available, plus the many years in developing the correct inoculant for the Korean pine to grow satisfactorily and produce at an earlier age. As we were developing our inoculant, we tried several other inoculants from different regions of North America, but found that none of these worked in our area. We were giving information that these inoculants were developed for there own areas. In other words, they worked where they were developed, but met with failure when tried in other regions. Once the proper inoculant was developed for the Korean pine, we were able to turn our attention to developing inoculants for each variety of the other edible nut pines. We would report from replies and personal observations, our inoculants works all across Canada, in the United States, and also have helped these trees grow at a better growth rate in Europe, Asia, and other countries.
In the next few years, many of the other varieties of the edible nut pines will start producing crops, and information on these will be released at that time.
Listed below is a brief description of all the edible nut pines that we have experimented with. Some are in orchards, others are still in test plots. While others failed to survive our winters because of lack of hardiness (those in Zone 7a and up). The germination ranged between 80 to 95 percent. All have the potential as a commercial crop planting with the added benefit as an ornamental and for landscape settings.
Korean Pine (Pinus koraiensis)
Zone 2. A tall growing tree, very similar in appearance to the Eastern white pine in appearance. The needles are in fascicles of 5. Colour of needles range from a light green to bluish green in colour. Height range from 90 - 150 feet. Bearing age from 10 to 150 years plus. Number of nuts per pound 650.
Siberian Pine (Pinus siberica) (Du Tour)
Zone 1 Somewhat similar in appearance to the Korean Pine reaching a maximum height of 120 feet at maturity. Bearing age from 12 to 150 years plus. Very ornamental in appearance, somewhat similar to Korean Pine. In their native habitat they usually grow in a wet bog like area. Another outstanding feature of these tree's are the seed coat of the nuts. They are thin enough to break in ones fingers. Nuts per pound 675
Swiss Stone Pine (Pinus cembra)
Zone 2. Needles in fascicles of 5's. Maximum height to 60 feet at maturity. Bearing age starting at 14 years. Number of seeds per pound 975. One feature of this particular tree is that in its natural range, it grows in a heavy clay with good drainage. Our experiences show that it will do very well in other types of soils ranging to loam to sandy textures. Very outstanding as ornamental as well, with a bluish colour which last year round.
Macedenian Pine (Pinus peuce)
Zone 4. Needles in fascicles of 5's. Maximum height to 70 feet. Bearing age begins at 12 years. Number of nuts per pound 940. Grows best in a well drained soil, but requires adequate drainage. Soils range from loam to sandy. Very ornamental tree, with bluish colour in spring, changing to a darker green in August.
Dwarf Siberian Pine (Pinus pumila)
Zone 2. Needles in fascicles of 5's. Shrub growth type, similar to Mugho Pine, but will withstand heavy snow without branches breaking. Will reach a maximum height of 20 feet. Bearing age 10 years. Nuts per pound 840. Prefers a well drained soil consisting from loam to sandy type. Two types are recognized, both are ornamental in appearance. One variety is a very bluish green all year, the other is a grayish green. Seed size is the same for both.
Italian Stone Pine (Pinus pinea)
Zone 8a. Needles in fascicles of 2's. Maximum height at maturity is 40 - 60 feet. Bears nuts at age of 18 years. Nuts per pound 615. Prefers a well drained soil ranging from loam to sandy.
Armand Pine (Pinus armandii)
Zone 4. Maximum height at maturity from 40 to 60 feet. Bears nuts at age if 12 years. Nuts per pound 840. Very ornamental in appearance with a bluish colour to needles. Grows best in a sandy soil, but well drained.
Nepal Pine (Pinus gerardiana)
Zone 5. Needles in fascicles of 3's. Height at maturity 60 to 80 feet. Bearing age of 15. From the Himalayan mountains. Very difficult to grow. Fine specimen of tree once established. Requires a well drained soil. Soil texture is best described as a mixture of very fine gravel with good loam to sandy soil. Nuts per pound 858.
Digger Pine (Pinus sabiniana)
Zone 7a. Needles in fascicles of 3's. Mature height to 60 feet. Starts to bear nuts at age of 18 years. Will grow in loam to sandy soil, prefers good drainage. Nuts per pound 610.
Jeffrey Pine (Pinus jeffreyi)
Zone 4. Needles in fascicles of 3's. Maximum height to 150 feet. Bearing age from 18 years. The tree is very unusual in appearance, especially when young. The trunk diameter is quite large in comparison to height of tree. The needles give off a very aromic fragrance in the spring. Needles are long, sometimes up to 8 inches long. Prefers a well drained soil ranging from loam to sand. Nuts per pound 1355.
Pinion Pine (Pinus cembroides)
Zone 4 Maximum height at maturity from 30 to 40 feet. Bearing age from 15 years. Slow growing tree, and colour of needles range from very bright blue to a light green. Prefers a sandy type soil, but will do well on a loam as long as there is good drainage. Nuts per pound 925.
Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana)
Zone 4. Needles in fascicles of 3's. Maximum height to 200 feet at maturity. Bearing age of nuts 15. A fast growing tree. Prefers a well drained soil ranging from a loam to sandy texture. Nuts per pound 985.
Note: The seed counts per pound are based on the nuts we obtained from our sources.
Provided by SONG. Feel free to copy with a credit.